Cue, as defined in Merriam Webster:

Definition of cue


a : a signal (such as a word, phrase, or bit of stage business) to a performer to begin a specific speech or action That last line is your cue to exit the stage.

b : something serving a comparable purpose : [HINT] I'll take that yawn as my cue to leave.

I feel CUE has the similar meaning as HINT in this case. Can we say:

  • That last line is your hint to exit the stage.

  • I'll take that yawn as my hint to leave.

I am not sure if these two words have some overlaps in meaning. Or sometimes they are interchangeable in some circumstances?

  • No, "hint" is just something aiding you in understanding, thus is similar to give a clue. Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 4:17

1 Answer 1


They have some overlap in meaning but they're not the same.

A hint is a thing used to help discover unknown or forgotten information. A cue is more about coordinating timing. The common idiom "I'm waiting for my cue" means that I know what to do but am waiting for the signal to do it.

Don't confuse "cue" with "clue".

In your examples:

The actor knows that they need to leave the stage. The cue let's them know the right time. It would only be a hint if the actor didn't know what to do.

The yawn is more of a hint because it carries the message that the person is sleepy and it is a good idea to leave. It is a cue in the sense that the person is intending to leave and the yawn signals that now is the right time.

  • This is a very good explanation! I learnt it. Thanks!
    – dan
    Commented Jan 16, 2018 at 7:43

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