a kind of knot, hitch, or bend made on a rope to shorten it temporarily.

Origin of sheepshank

First recorded in 1635–45; short for sheepshank knot; literal sense unclear Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sheep-shank

Historical Examples of sheep-shank

  • Sheep-shank the stays and backstays, and set them hand-taut.

    The Seaman's Friend

    Richard Henry Dana

  • But when you come to that sheep-shank and bowline upon the bight, as you term them, it grows confusing.

    Fighting in Cuban Waters

    Edward Stratemeyer

  • The purpose of a Sheep-shank is to take up slack or shorten a rope temporarily.

  • It is sometimes necessary to shorten a rope temporarily and not desirable to cut it, and the sheep-shank knot solves the problem.

    On the Trail

    Lina Beard and Adelia Belle Beard

British Dictionary definitions for sheep-shank



a knot consisting of two hitches at the ends of a bight made in a rope to shorten it temporarily
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 sheep-shank

also sheepshank, 1670s, "leg of a sheep," from sheep + shank (n.). A type of something lank, slender, or weak. Attested earlier in transferred sense of "type of sailor's knot used to shorten a rope without cutting it" (1620s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper