- a thin slab of wood, metal, etc., fixed horizontally to a wall or in a frame, for supporting objects.
- the contents of this: a shelf of books.
- a surface or projection resembling this; ledge.
- Physical Geography.
- a sandbank or submerged extent of rock in the sea or river.
- the bedrock underlying an alluvial deposit or the like.
- continental shelf.
- Archery. the upper part of the bow hand, on which the arrow rests.
- off the shelf, readily available from merchandise in stock: Any of those parts can be purchased off the shelf.
- on the shelf, Informal.
- put aside temporarily; postponed.
- inactive; useless.
- without prospects of marriage, as after having broken an engagement.
Origin of shelf
Examples from the Web for shelf
And much of it, unlike Pappy, is right there on the shelf, humbly, quietly waiting to be tried.The Cult of Pappy van Winkle
December 3, 2014
But how much easier, he says with disdain, for those who just buy whiskey off the shelf and market it.Your ‘Craft’ Rye Whiskey Is Probably From a Factory Distillery in Indiana
July 28, 2014
But others argue that its shelf life is longer than we might think.An Ode to the Trench Coat: The Burberry vs. The Lloyd Dobler
April 14, 2014
A military helmet that the artist himself wore on the Maidan occupied an important spot on the shelf.Making Art Out of Ukraine’s Bullets and Barricades
March 31, 2014
It was the first store where I saw my first book displayed on the shelf.How I Write: David Baldacci
March 19, 2014
I did not want to take it, so I put it on the shelf for Our Lady.
Three books from the end she noticed a difference in the wall behind the shelf.Her Father's Daughter
She took down the parcel from the shelf and undid the string.One Day's Courtship
There was a shelf of books and another of blue and white cups and saucers and dishes.The Harbor
I gave one more glance at the volume, and replaced it on the shelf.Wilfrid Cumbermede
- a thin flat plank of wood, metal, etc, fixed horizontally against a wall, etc, for the purpose of supporting objects
- something resembling this in shape or function
- the objects placed on a shelf, regarded collectivelya shelf of books
- a projecting layer of ice, rock, etc, on land or in the seaSee also continental shelf
- mining a layer of bedrock hit when sinking a shaft
- archery the part of the hand on which an arrow rests when the bow is grasped
- See off the shelf
- on the shelf put aside or abandoned: used esp of unmarried women considered to be past the age of marriage
- (tr) Australian slang to inform upon
Word Origin and History for shelf
late 14c., from Middle Low German schelf "shelf, set of shelves," or from Old English cognate scylfe, which perhaps meant "shelf, ledge, floor," and scylf "peak, pinnacle," from Proto-Germanic *skelf- "split," possibly from the notion of a split piece of wood (cf. Old Norse skjölf "bench"), from PIE root *(s)kel- (1) "to cut, cleave" (see scale (n.1)).
Shelf life first recorded 1927. Phrase on the shelf "out of the way, inactive" is attested from 1570s; of unmarried women with no prospects from 1839. Off the shelf "ready-made" is from 1936. Meaning "ledge of rock" is from 1809, perhaps from or influenced by shelf (n.2). Related: Shelves.
"sandbank," 1540s, of unknown origin. Related: Shelfy "abounding in sandbanks."
- See continental shelf.