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[sheer] /ʃɪər/
verb (used without object)
to deviate from a course, as a ship; swerve.
verb (used with object)
to cause to sheer.
Shipbuilding. to give sheer to (a hull).
a deviation or divergence, as of a ship from its course; swerve.
Shipbuilding. the fore-and-aft upward curve of the hull of a vessel at the main deck or bulwarks.
Nautical. the position in which a ship at anchor is placed to keep it clear of the anchor.
Origin of sheer2
1620-30; special use of sheer1; compare sense development of clear Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for sheering
Historical Examples
  • I expect every moment to find her sheering off to the westward, and gradually getting us in her wake on a wind.

    The Wing-and-Wing J. Fenimore Cooper
  • The skiff, designed as sheering had said for short hops, could not accommodate the extra weight and bulk of an airlock.

    The Legion of Lazarus Edmond Hamilton
  • Well, here she comes, and we said she was going to try and shave us; but she didn't seem to be sheering off a bit.

    Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Complete Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
  • The axe descended, sheering his haunches across, and he stretched out, working his great jaws convulsively.

    The Backwoodsmen Charles G. D. Roberts
  • The brig was sheering swiftly and giddily through a long, cresting swell.

    Kidnapped Robert Louis Stevenson
  • He did not think she could reach the opposite bank, though the Enchantress was sheering that way to help her.

    The Coast of Adventure Harold Bindloss
  • While the surgeon was preparing to go, and they were thus thrown off their guard, the stranger was seen to be sheering alongside.

    The Rival Crusoes W.H.G. Kingston
  • Barely a hundred yards in width, it was shut in on either side by gloomy krantzes, sheering up almost from the level itself.

    Renshaw Fanning's Quest Bertram Mitford
  • Though it was such a care-free storm, I confessed to a feeling of relief when I saw it sheering off to the south.

    The Affable Stranger Peter McArthur
  • They resumed travel, sheering off to the right and keeping to the edge of the intersecting canuon.

British Dictionary definitions for sheering


perpendicular; very steep: a sheer cliff
(of textiles) so fine as to be transparent
(prenominal) absolute; unmitigated: sheer folly
(obsolete) bright or shining
steeply or perpendicularly
completely or absolutely
any transparent fabric used for making garments
Derived Forms
sheerly, adverb
sheerness, noun
Word Origin
Old English scīr; related to Old Norse skīrr bright, Gothic skeirs clear, Middle High German schīr


verb foll by off or away (from)
to deviate or cause to deviate from a course
(intransitive) to avoid an unpleasant person, thing, topic, etc
the upward sweep of the deck or bulwarks of a vessel
(nautical) the position of a vessel relative to its mooring
Word Origin
C17: perhaps variant of shear
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 sheering



c.1200, "exempt, free from guilt" (e.g. Sheer Thursday, the Thursday of Holy Week); later schiere "thin, sparse" (c.1400), from Old English scir "bright, clear, gleaming; translucent; pure, unmixed," and influenced by Old Norse cognate scær "bright, clean, pure," both from Proto-Germanic *skeran- (cf. Old Saxon skiri, Old Frisian skire, German schier, Gothic skeirs "clean, pure"), from PIE root *(s)ker- (1) "to cut" (see shear (v.)).

Sense of "absolute, utter" (sheer nonsense) developed 1580s, probably from the notion of "unmixed;" that of "very steep" (a sheer cliff) is first recorded 1800, probably from notion of "continued without halting." Meaning "diaphanous" is from 1560s. As an adverb from c.1600.


1620s, "deviate from course" (of a ship), of obscure origin, perhaps from Dutch scheren "to move aside, withdraw, depart," originally "to separate" (see shear (v.)). Related: Sheered; shearing. As a noun from 1660s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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