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[sheer] /ʃɪər/
verb (used with object), sheared, sheared or shorn, shearing.
to cut (something).
to remove by or as if by cutting or clipping with a sharp instrument:
to shear wool from sheep.
to cut or clip the hair, fleece, wool, etc., from:
to shear sheep.
to strip or deprive (usually followed by of):
to shear someone of power.
Chiefly Scot. to reap with a sickle.
to travel through by or as if by cutting:
Chimney swifts sheared the air.
verb (used without object), sheared, sheared or shorn, shearing.
to cut or cut through something with a sharp instrument.
to progress by or as if by cutting:
The cruiser sheared through the water.
Mechanics, Geology. to become fractured along a plane as a result of forces acting parallel to the plane.
Chiefly Scot. to reap crops with a sickle.
Usually, shears. (sometimes used with a singular verb)
  1. scissors of large size (usually used with pair of).
  2. any of various other cutting implements or machines having two blades that resemble or suggest those of scissors.
the act or process of shearing or being sheared.
a shearing of sheep (used in stating the age of sheep):
a sheep of one shear.
the quantity, especially of wool or fleece, cut off at one shearing.
one blade of a pair of large scissors.
Usually, shears. (usually used with a plural verb). Also, sheers. Also called shear legs, sheerlegs. a framework for hoisting heavy weights, consisting of two or more spars with their legs separated, fastened together near the top and steadied by guys, which support a tackle.
a machine for cutting rigid material, as metal in sheet or plate form, by moving the edge of a blade through it.
Mechanics, Geology. the tendency of forces to deform or fracture a member or a rock in a direction parallel to the force, as by sliding one section against another.
Physics. the lateral deformation produced in a body by an external force, expressed as the ratio of the lateral displacement between two points lying in parallel planes to the vertical distance between the planes.
Origin of shear
before 900; (v.) Middle English sheren, Old English sceran, cognate with Dutch, German scheren, Old Norse skera; (noun) (in sense “tool for shearing”) Middle English sheres (plural), continuing Old English scērero, scēar, two words derived from the same root as the v.
Related forms
shearer, noun
shearless, adjective
Can be confused
shear, sheer. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for shears
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • She could feel the shears against her hair, and she was so scared she swore like he told her.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • Hubertine had taken up the shears to remodel one of the pieces of vellum.

    The Dream Emile Zola
  • She knew that Coupeau was jealous enough to attack Lantier with his shears.

    L'Assommoir Emile Zola
  • Put the finger, protected by the cardboard, between the two points of the shears.

    Common Science Carleton W. Washburne
  • shears for cutting tin and metal have long handles and short blades.

    Common Science Carleton W. Washburne
  • I only wish I had a machine, or shears or something, and more time, and I would do something to it.

    The Carroll Girls Mabel Quiller-Couch
  • Tie these two together at the ends making what the sailors call a "shears."

    Boy Scouts Handbook Boy Scouts of America
  • Once she took the shears and was going to cut off the tail, but Paul stopped her.

    Winning His Way

    Charles Carleton Coffin
British Dictionary definitions for shears


plural noun
  1. large scissors, as for cutting cloth, jointing poultry, etc
  2. a large scissor-like and usually hand-held cutting tool with flat blades, as for cutting hedges
any of various analogous cutting or clipping implements or machines
short for sheerlegs
(Austral, informal) off the shears, (of a sheep) newly shorn


verb shears, shearing, sheared (Austral & NZ) shore, sheared, shorn
(transitive) to remove (the fleece or hair) of (sheep, etc) by cutting or clipping
to cut or cut through (something) with shears or a sharp instrument
(engineering) to cause (a part, member, shaft, etc) to deform or fracture or (of a part, etc) to deform or fracture as a result of excess torsion or transverse load
(transitive) often foll by of. to strip or divest: to shear someone of his power
when intr, foll by through. to move through (something) by or as if by cutting
(Scot) to reap (corn, etc) with a scythe or sickle
the act, process, or an instance of shearing
a shearing of a sheep or flock of sheep, esp when referred to as an indication of age: a sheep of two shears
a form of deformation or fracture in which parallel planes in a body or assembly slide over one another
(physics) the deformation of a body, part, etc, expressed as the lateral displacement between two points in parallel planes divided by the distance between the planes
either one of the blades of a pair of shears, scissors, etc
a machine that cuts sheet material by passing a knife blade through it
a device for lifting heavy loads consisting of a tackle supported by a framework held steady by guy ropes
See also shears, shore3
Derived Forms
shearer, noun
Word Origin
Old English sceran; related to Old Norse skera to cut, Old Saxon, Old High German skeran to shear; see share²
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 shears

"large scissors," Old English scearra (plural) "shears, scissors," from Proto-Germanic *sker- "to cut" (cf. Middle Dutch schaer, Old High German scara, German Schere; see shear (v.)). In 17c., also "a device for raising the masts of ships" (1620s). As "scissors," OED labels it Scottish and dialectal. Chalk is no shears (1640s) was noted as a Scottish proverb expressing the gap between planning and doing.



Old English sceran, scieran (class IV strong verb; past tense scear, past participle scoren) "to cleave, hew, cut with a sharp instrument; cut (hair); shear (sheep)," from Proto-Germanic *sker- "to cut" (cf. Old Norse and Old Frisian skera, Dutch scheren, German scheren "to shear"), from PIE *(s)ker- (1) "to cut, to scrape, to hack" (cf. Sanskrit krnati "hurts, wounds, kills," krntati "cuts;" Hittite karsh- "to cut off;" Greek keirein "to cut, shear;" Latin curtus "short;" Lithuanian skiriu "to separate;" Old Irish scaraim "I separate;" Welsh ysgar "to separate," ysgyr "fragment").



"act of clipping," 1610s, also as a unit of measure of the age of a sheep, from shear (v.). Scientific and mechanical sense "type of strain" is from 1850.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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shears in Science
  1. A force, movement or pressure applied to an object perpendicular to a given axis, with greater value on one side of the axis than the other. See more at shear force, stress, strain.

  2. See skew.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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