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verb (used with object)
  1. to evade (work, duty, responsibility, etc.).
verb (used without object)
  1. to evade work, duty, etc.
  1. a shirker.

Origin of shirk

First recorded in 1625–35; obscurely akin to shark2
Related formsun·shirked, adjectiveun·shirk·ing, adjective


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1. shun, avoid, dodge.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for shirked

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • And, besides, he felt like a coward who had shirked his duty.

  • It was telling the duke that he shirked danger as plain as ever I have heard a man told.

  • But these he shirked where possible, as he had shirked his lessons in earlier days.

    The Strolling Saint

    Raphael Sabatini

  • It should not be said that the son of David Allison flinched or shirked a duty!

    Rodney, the Ranger

    John V. Lane

  • John Ellwell shirked then; it was not much to do to go to the front.

    The Man Who Wins

    Robert Herrick

British Dictionary definitions for shirked


  1. to avoid discharging (work, a duty, etc); evade
noun Also: shirker
  1. a person who shirks

Word Origin

C17: probably from German Schurke rogue; see shark ²


  1. Islam
    1. the fundamental sin of regarding anything as equal to Allah
    2. any belief that is considered to be in opposition to Allah and Islam

Word Origin

from Arabic: association
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 shirked



1630s, "to practice fraud or trickery," also a noun (1630s, now obsolete) "a needy, disreputable parasite" [OED], perhaps from German schurke "scoundrel, rogue, knave, villain" (see shark (n.)). Sense of "evade one's work or duty" first recorded 1785, originally in slang. Related: Shirked; shirking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper