What’s a Skein?

Most English-speaking knitters are familiar with the word ‘skein’ as a bunch of coiled yarn that has to be wound into a ball before it can be used. In trying to find the French word for skein using WordReference.com (my favorite online French-English dictionary), another knitter and I found two translations: écheveau (de fil…) and vol d’oiseau. The first translation makes perfect sense in the context of knitting. The second however, refers to the flying of birds, which is understandably confusing.

I recently learned, courtesy of Wikipedia, that the word ‘skein’ also refers to a group of geese, ducks, or other wildfowl that are in flight (entry). Another site also provides this and other examples of relatively unusual names for groups of birds.

This post refers to:

WordReference.com’s translation of ‘skein.’

Wikipedia’s disambiguation of ‘skein.’

Bird group names.

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