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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 shelterless
Historical Examples
  • Around was shelterless and bare, but the heightening wall of cliff seemed to be watching.

    Foes Mary Johnston
  • They saw that their case was hapless, yet on they came across the shelterless plain.

    The Long Roll Mary Johnston
  • Small vessels only can enter the harbour, which is shelterless, and rendered difficult of access by a sunken reef.

  • He was a starving, shelterless outcast at the moment of his crime.

    Paris and the Social Revolution Alvan Francis Sanborn
  • The sere and yellow leaf is falling on the shelterless head of the royal Puritan.

  • By this time it was beginning to get hot, there on the shelterless wreck.

    The Haunters of the Silences Charles G. D. Roberts
  • Except for the shelterless animals that wandered about close upon starvation, nothing remained.

    The Land of Evangeline John Frederic Herbin
  • He felt like a leaf in a hurricane, "lost, dizzy, shelterless."

    Jimbo Algernon Blackwood
  • They passed by the fence of this shelterless acre on the hill, and shoutings and high music began to reach them.

    Lin McLean Owen Wister
  • But his home was not yet secure and he was haunted with the fear that his old age might be shelterless.

    The Iron Puddler James J. Davis
British Dictionary definitions for shelterless


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 shelterless



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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