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[sheyl] /ʃeɪl/
a rock of fissile or laminated structure formed by the consolidation of clay or argillaceous material.
Origin of shale
1740-50; origin uncertain; compare obsolete shale to split (said of stone), to shell, derivative of shale shell, husk, Old English scealu shell, husk; see scale2
Related forms
shalelike, shaley, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for shale
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The narrowest and deepest gorge is hundreds of feet deep in the shale.

  • I pushed him on over a sloping peak of shale, and told him to hold his tongue.

    The House Under the Sea

    Sir Max Pemberton
  • If the layers were of sand, the rock is sandstone; if of clay, it is shale.

    Boy Scouts Handbook Boy Scouts of America
  • The inside of the cave is a shale that no one could dig into.

    The Boy Scout Treasure Hunters Charles Henry Lerrigo
  • Green and red marl, shale, and shaly limestone with some veins of gypsum.

    Old Mackinaw W. P. Strickland.
British Dictionary definitions for shale


a dark fine-grained laminated sedimentary rock formed by compression of successive layers of clay-rich sediment
Derived Forms
shaly, adjective
Word Origin
Old English scealushell; compare German Schalstein laminated limestone; see scale1, scale²
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for shale

1747, possibly a specialized use of Middle English schale "shell, husk, pod" (late 14c.), also "fish scale," from Old English scealu (see shell (n.)) in its base sense of "thing that divides or separate," in reference to the way the rock breaks apart in layers. Cf. Middle English sheel "to shell, to take off the outer husk" (late 15c.). Geological use also possibly influenced by German Schalstein "laminated limestone," and Schalgebirge "layer of stone in stratified rock."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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shale in Science
A fine-grained sedimentary rock consisting of compacted and hardened clay, silt, or mud. Shale forms in many distinct layers and splits easily into thin sheets or slabs. It varies in color from black or gray to brown or red.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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shale in Culture

shale definition

A sedimentary rock formed from layers of clay.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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