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  1. a sudden and violent blow or impact; collision.
  2. a sudden or violent disturbance or commotion: the shock of battle.
  3. a sudden or violent disturbance of the mind, emotions, or sensibilities: The burglary was a shock to her sense of security. The book provided a shock, nothing more.
  4. the cause of such a disturbance: The rebuke came as a shock.
  5. Pathology. a collapse of circulatory function, caused by severe injury, blood loss, or disease, and characterized by pallor, sweating, weak pulse, and very low blood pressure.Compare anaphylactic shock, cardiogenic shock, hypovolemic shock.
  6. the physiological effect produced by the passage of an electric current through the body.
  7. shocks, Informal. shock absorbers, especially in the suspension of an automobile.
verb (used with object)
  1. to strike or jar with intense surprise, horror, disgust, etc.: He enjoyed shocking people.
  2. to strike against violently.
  3. to give an electric shock to.
verb (used without object)
  1. to undergo a shock.

Origin of shock1

1555–65; < Middle French choc armed encounter, noun derivative of choquer to clash (in battle) < Germanic; compare Dutch schokken to shake, jolt, jerk
Related formsshock·a·ble, adjectiveshock·a·bil·i·ty, nounshock·ed·ness, nounshock·like, adjectiveun·shock·a·bil·i·ty, nounun·shock·a·ble, adjective


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8. stagger, astound, stupefy. Shock, startle, paralyze, stun suggest a sudden, sharp surprise that affects one somewhat like a blow. Shock suggests a strong blow, as it were, to one's nerves, sentiments, sense of decency, etc.: The onlookers were shocked by the accident. Startle implies the sharp surprise of sudden fright: to be startled by a loud noise. Paralyze implies such a complete shock as to render one temporarily helpless: paralyzed with fear. Stun implies such a shock as bewilders or stupefies: stunned by the realization of an unpleasant truth.


  1. a group of sheaves of grain placed on end and supporting one another in the field.
verb (used with object)
  1. to make into shocks.

Origin of shock2

1275–1325; Middle English; cognate with Low German schok shock of grain, group of sixty, German Schock sixty
Related formsshock·er, noun


  1. a thick, bushy mass, as of hair.
  2. Also shock dog. a dog with long, shaggy hair.
  1. shaggy, as hair.

Origin of shock3

1810–20; special use of shock2, the hair being compared to a shock of wheat
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for shock

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Even Hope's strong constitution felt the shock of this adventure.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • She had a shock every time she came in and found it still there.

  • And with his head still turned, Andrew felt a shock and flounder.

  • One purpose of this introduction is to prepare the reader for such a shock.

  • In growth all is adjusted to capacity; it is not meant to shock, force, or frighten.

British Dictionary definitions for shock


  1. to experience or cause to experience extreme horror, disgust, surprise, etcthe atrocities shocked us; she shocks easily
  2. to cause a state of shock in (a person)
  3. to come or cause to come into violent contact; jar
  1. a sudden and violent jarring blow or impact
  2. something that causes a sudden and violent disturbance in the emotionsthe shock of her father's death made her ill
  3. pathol a state of bodily collapse or near collapse caused by circulatory failure or sudden lowering of the blood pressure, as from severe bleeding, burns, fright, etc
  4. pathol pain and muscular spasm as the physical reaction to an electric current passing through the body
Derived Formsshockable, adjectiveshockability, noun

Word Origin

C16: from Old French choc, from choquier to make violent contact with, of Germanic origin; related to Middle High German schoc


  1. a number of sheaves set on end in a field to dry
  2. a pile or stack of unthreshed corn
  1. (tr) to set up (sheaves) in shocks

Word Origin

C14: probably of Germanic origin; compare Middle Low German, Middle Dutch schok shock of corn, group of sixty


  1. a thick bushy mass, esp of hair
  1. rare bushy; shaggy

Word Origin

C19: perhaps from shock ²
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 shock


1560s, "violent encounter of armed forces or a pair of warriors," a military term, from Middle French choc "violent attack," from Old French choquer "strike against," probably from Frankish, from a Proto-Germanic imitative base (cf. Middle Dutch schokken "to push, jolt," Old High German scoc "jolt, swing").

Meaning "a sudden blow" is from 1610s; meaning "a sudden and disturbing impression on the mind" is from 1705. Sense of "feeling of being (mentally) shocked" is from 1876. Medical sense is attested from 1804 (it also once meant "seizure, stroke," 1794). Shock-absorber is attested from 1906 (short form shocks attested by 1961); shock wave is from 1907. Shock troops (1917) translates German stoßtruppen and preserves the word's original military sense. Shock therapy is from 1917; shock treatment from 1938.


"bundle of grain," early 14c., from Middle Low German schok "shock of corn," originally "group of sixty," from Proto-Germanic *skukka- (cf. Old Saxon skok, Dutch schok "sixty pieces; shock of corn;" German schock "sixty," Hocke "heap of sheaves"). In 16c.-17c. English the word sometimes meant "60-piece lot," from trade with the Dutch.


"thick mass of hair," 1819, from earlier shock (adj.) "having thick hair" (1680s), and a noun sense of "lap dog having long, shaggy hair" (1630s), from shough (1590s), the name for this type of dog, which was said to have been brought originally from Iceland; the word is perhaps from the source of shock (n.2), or from an Old Norse variant of shag (n.). Shock-headed Peter was used in 19c. translations for German Struwwelpeter.


"to come into violent contact, strike against suddenly and violently," 1570s, now archaic or obsolete, from shock (n.1). Meaning "to give (something) an electric shock" is from 1746; sense of "to offend, displease" is first recorded 1690s.


"arrange (grain) in a shock," mid-15c., from shock (n.2). Related: Shocked; shocking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

shock in Medicine


  1. Something that jars the mind or emotions as if with a violent, unexpected blow.
  2. The disturbance of function, equilibrium, or mental faculties caused by such a blow; violent agitation.
  3. A generally temporary massive physiological reaction to severe physical or emotional trauma, usually characterized by marked loss of blood pressure and depression of vital processes.
  4. The sensation and muscular spasm caused by an electric current passing through the body or a body part.
  5. The abnormally palpable impact of an accentuated heartbeat felt by a hand on the chest wall.
  1. To induce a state of physical shock in a person.
  2. To subject a person to an electric shock.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

shock in Science


  1. An instance of the passage of an electric current through the body. The amount of injury caused by electric shock depends on the type and strength of the current, the length of time the current is applied, and the route the current takes once it enters the body.
  2. A life-threatening condition marked by a severe drop in blood pressure, resulting from serious injury or illness.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with shock


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.