[ sheyl ]
/ ʃeɪl /


a rock of fissile or laminated structure formed by the consolidation of clay or argillaceous material.


Nearby words

  1. shaktism,
  2. shakuntala,
  3. shaky,
  4. shakyamuni,
  5. shalach manoth,
  6. shale oil,
  7. shall,
  8. shall i compare thee to a summer's day?,
  9. shalloon,
  10. shallop

Origin of shale

1740–50; origin uncertain; compare obsolete shale to split (said of stone), to shell, derivative of shale shell, husk, Old English scealu shell, husk; see scale2

Related formsshale·like, shal·ey, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for shale

British Dictionary definitions for shale


/ (ʃeɪl) /


a dark fine-grained laminated sedimentary rock formed by compression of successive layers of clay-rich sediment
Derived Formsshaly, adjective

Word Origin for shale

Old English scealu shell; compare German Schalstein laminated limestone; see scale 1, scale 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 shale



1747, possibly a specialized use of Middle English schale "shell, husk, pod" (late 14c.), also "fish scale," from Old English scealu (see shell (n.)) in its base sense of "thing that divides or separate," in reference to the way the rock breaks apart in layers. Cf. Middle English sheel "to shell, to take off the outer husk" (late 15c.). Geological use also possibly influenced by German Schalstein "laminated limestone," and Schalgebirge "layer of stone in stratified rock."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Science definitions for shale


[ shāl ]

A fine-grained sedimentary rock consisting of compacted and hardened clay, silt, or mud. Shale forms in many distinct layers and splits easily into thin sheets or slabs. It varies in color from black or gray to brown or red.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Culture definitions for shale


A sedimentary rock formed from layers of clay.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.