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verb (used with object), shelved, shelv·ing.
  1. to place (something) on a shelf or shelves.
  2. to put off or aside from consideration: to shelve the question.
  3. to remove from active use or service; dismiss.
  4. to furnish with shelves.
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Origin of shelve1

First recorded in 1585–95; v. use of shelve(s)
Related formsshelv·er, noun


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2. defer, table, pigeonhole.


verb (used without object), shelved, shelv·ing.
  1. to slope gradually.
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Origin of shelve2

1580–90; origin uncertain; compare Frisian skelf not quite level
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for shelve

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • It had previously been decided to shelve "Uncle Tom's Cabin."

    A Pirate of Parts

    Richard Neville

  • The idea was not altogether comfortable, and he tried to shelve it.

    The Master of the Shell

    Talbot Baines Reed

  • We'll shelve that part of the information bureau and work on other lines.

  • She is head on to the Sand, but the Sand does not shelve much, and her keel is pretty even.

    Storm Warriors

    John Gilmore

  • Believe me, they aren't going to shelve me just because one finger's gone!

British Dictionary definitions for shelve


verb (tr)
  1. to place on a shelf
  2. to provide with shelves
  3. to put aside or postpone from consideration
  4. to dismiss or cause to retire
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Derived Formsshelver, noun

Word Origin

C16: from shelves, plural of shelf


  1. (intr) to slope away gradually; incline
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Word Origin

C16: origin uncertain
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

Word Origin and History for shelve


1590s, "to overhang," also "to provide with shelves," probably a back-formation from shelves, plural of shelf (n.1). Meaning "put on a shelf" first recorded 1650s; metaphoric sense of "lay aside, dismiss" is from 1812. Related: Shelved; shelving.

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"to slope gradually," 1610s, from Middle English shelven "to slope," from shelfe "grassy slope," a word related to shelf (n.1). Related: Shelved; shelving.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper