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  1. a ring or other fastening, as of iron, for securing the wrist, ankle, etc.; fetter.
  2. a hobble or fetter for a horse or other animal.
  3. the U-shaped bar of a padlock, one end of which is pivoted or sliding, the other end of which can be released, as for passing through a staple, and then fastened, as for securing a hasp.
  4. any of various fastening or coupling devices.
  5. Often shackles. anything that serves to prevent freedom of procedure, thought, etc.
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verb (used with object), shack·led, shack·ling.
  1. to put a shackle or shackles on; confine or restrain by a shackle or shackles.
  2. to fasten or couple with a shackle.
  3. to restrain in action, thought, etc., as by restrictions; restrict the freedom of.
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Origin of shackle

before 1000; (noun) Middle English schakle, schakyl(le); Old English sceacel fetter; cognate with Low German schakel hobble, Old Norse skǫkull wagon pole, (v.) late Middle English schaklyn, derivative of the noun
Related formsshack·ler, noun

Synonyms for shackle

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Antonyms for shackle

6, 8. liberate, free.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for shackle

handcuff, bind, cuff, confine, fetter, chain, manacle, bracelet, rope, trammel, hog-tie, secure, hold

Examples from the Web for shackle

Contemporary Examples of shackle

Historical Examples of shackle

British Dictionary definitions for shackle


  1. (often plural) a metal ring or fastening, usually part of a pair used to secure a person's wrists or ankles; fetter
  2. (often plural) anything that confines or restricts freedom
  3. a rope, tether, or hobble for an animal
  4. a U-shaped bracket, the open end of which is closed by a bolt (shackle pin), used for securing ropes, chains, etc
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verb (tr)
  1. to confine with or as if with shackles
  2. to fasten or connect with a shackle
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Derived Formsshackler, noun

Word Origin for shackle

Old English sceacel; related to Dutch schakel, Old Norse skokull wagon pole, Latin cingere to surround
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 shackle


Old English sceacel "shackle, fetter," probably also in a general sense "a link or ring of a chain," from Proto-Germanic *skakula- (cf. Middle Dutch, Dutch schakel "link of a chain, ring of a net," Old Norse skökull "pole of a carriage"), of uncertain origin. According to OED, the common notion of "something to fasten or attach" makes a connection with shake unlikely. Figurative use from early 13c. Related: Shackledom "marriage" (1771); shackle-bone "the wrist" (1570s).

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mid-15c., from shackle (n.). Figurative use from 1560s. Related: Shackled; shackling.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper