adjective, sheer·er, sheer·est.


clear; completely; quite: ran sheer into the thick of battle.
perpendicularly; vertically; down or up very steeply.


a thin, diaphanous material, as chiffon or voile.

Origin of sheer

1175–1225; Middle English scere, shere, schere free, clear, bright, thin; probably < Old Norse skǣrr; change of sk- > s(c)h- perhaps by influence of the related Old English scīr (E dial. shire clear, pure, thin); cognate with German schier, Old Norse skīr, Gothic skeirs clear; see shine1
Related formssheer·ly, adverbsheer·ness, noun
Can be confusedshear sheer

Synonyms for sheer

Antonyms for sheer

1. opaque. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for sheerest

Contemporary Examples of sheerest

Historical Examples of sheerest

  • This was the sheerest "bluff," but it was delivered with all the assurance in the world.

    Fair Harbor

    Joseph Crosby Lincoln

  • It was only by the sheerest accident that he had found out, even now, about them.

    Space Viking

    Henry Beam Piper

  • It would have been the sheerest affectation on his part to have evaded the question.

  • If either you or I ever reach our destination, it will be by the sheerest accident.

    The Land of Thor

    J. Ross Browne

  • But it remained, as usual, for a woman to attain the sheerest pitch of audacity.

British Dictionary definitions for sheerest




perpendicular; very steepa sheer cliff
(of textiles) so fine as to be transparent
(prenominal) absolute; unmitigatedsheer folly
obsolete bright or shining


steeply or perpendicularly
completely or absolutely


any transparent fabric used for making garments
Derived Formssheerly, adverbsheerness, noun

Word Origin for sheer

Old English scīr; related to Old Norse skīrr bright, Gothic skeirs clear, Middle High German schīr



verb (foll by off or away ( from ))

to deviate or cause to deviate from a course
(intr) to avoid an unpleasant person, thing, topic, etc


the upward sweep of the deck or bulwarks of a vessel
nautical the position of a vessel relative to its mooring

Word Origin for sheer

C17: perhaps variant of shear
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 sheerest



c.1200, "exempt, free from guilt" (e.g. Sheer Thursday, the Thursday of Holy Week); later schiere "thin, sparse" (c.1400), from Old English scir "bright, clear, gleaming; translucent; pure, unmixed," and influenced by Old Norse cognate scær "bright, clean, pure," both from Proto-Germanic *skeran- (cf. Old Saxon skiri, Old Frisian skire, German schier, Gothic skeirs "clean, pure"), from PIE root *(s)ker- (1) "to cut" (see shear (v.)).

Sense of "absolute, utter" (sheer nonsense) developed 1580s, probably from the notion of "unmixed;" that of "very steep" (a sheer cliff) is first recorded 1800, probably from notion of "continued without halting." Meaning "diaphanous" is from 1560s. As an adverb from c.1600.



1620s, "deviate from course" (of a ship), of obscure origin, perhaps from Dutch scheren "to move aside, withdraw, depart," originally "to separate" (see shear (v.)). Related: Sheered; shearing. As a noun from 1660s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper