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[shel-ter] /ˈʃɛl tər/
something beneath, behind, or within which a person, animal, or thing is protected from storms, missiles, adverse conditions, etc.; refuge.
the protection or refuge afforded by such a thing:
He took shelter in a nearby barn.
protection from blame, incrimination, etc.
a dwelling place or home considered as a refuge from the elements:
Everyone's basic needs are food, clothing, and shelter.
a building serving as a temporary refuge or residence for homeless persons, abandoned animals, etc.
Finance. tax shelter.
verb (used with object)
to be a shelter for; afford shelter to:
The old barn sheltered him from the rain.
to provide with a shelter; place under cover.
to protect, as by shelter; take under one's protection:
Parents should not try to shelter their children from normal childhood disappointments.
Finance. to invest (money) in a tax shelter.
verb (used without object)
to take shelter; find a refuge:
He sheltered in a barn.
Finance. to invest money in a tax shelterd.
Origin of shelter
1575-85; perhaps alteration of obsolete sheltron testudo, Old English scieldtruma, equivalent to scield shield + truma body of fighting men; see trim
Related forms
shelterer, noun
shelteringly, adverb
shelterless, adjective
shelterlessness, noun
self-shelter, noun
unsheltering, adjective
1. retreat, asylum, sanctuary, shield, haven, harbor. 7. harbor, house. 9. guard, safeguard, shield, defend.
Synonym Study
1. See cover. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for shelter
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Here we roused up the inmates, and demanded a shelter for the night.

    Daring and Suffering: William Pittenger
  • A great wind was blowing, night was falling, and they saw no shelter near.

    The Children of Odin Padraic Colum
  • In another few seconds my shelter would be torn away, and I should be done for.

    Allan's Wife H. Rider Haggard
  • The black slave always had food and shelter, clothes and medicine.

    The Root of Evil Thomas Dixon
  • Who knows but he may be at Arnwood, for he must hardly know where to go for shelter?

British Dictionary definitions for shelter


something that provides cover or protection, as from weather or danger; place of refuge
the protection afforded by such a cover; refuge
the state of being sheltered
(transitive) to provide with or protect by a shelter
(intransitive) to take cover, as from rain; find refuge
(transitive) to act as a shelter for; take under one's protection
Derived Forms
shelterer, noun
shelterless, adjective
Word Origin
C16: of uncertain origin
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 shelter

1580s, "structure affording protection," possibly an alteration of Middle English sheltron, sheldtrume "roof or wall formed by locked shields," from Old English scyldtruma, from scield "shield" (see shield (n.)) + truma "troop," related to Old English trum "firm, strong" (see trim).

If so, the original notion is of a compact body of men protected by interlocking shields. OED finds this "untenable" and proposed derivation from shield + -ture. Figurative sense is recorded from 1580s; meaning "temporary lodging for homeless poor" is first recorded 1890 in Salvation Army jargon; sense of "temporary home for animals" is from 1971. Related: Shelterless.


1580s, "to screen, protect," from shelter (n.); in the income investment sense, from 1955. Meaning "to take shelter" is from c.1600. Related: Sheltered; sheltering.


1580s, "to screen, protect," from shelter (n.); in the income investment sense, from 1955. Meaning "to take shelter" is from c.1600. Related: Sheltered; sheltering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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