Nearby words

  1. shelf-stacker,
  2. shelfful,
  3. shelflist,
  4. shelfware,
  5. shelikof strait,
  6. shell back,
  7. shell bean,
  8. shell company,
  9. shell game,
  10. shell gland

Origin of shell

before 900; (noun) Middle English; Old English scell (north), sciell; cognate with Dutch schil peel, skin, rink, Old Norse skel shell, Gothic skalja tile; (v.) derivative of the noun; cf. shale

Related formsshell-less, adjectiveshell-like, adjectivede-shell, verb (used with object)


[ sheel; unstressed shil ]
/ ʃil; unstressed ʃɪl /

contraction of she will.

Usage note Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for shell

British Dictionary definitions for shell


/ (ʃɛl) /



See also shell out

Derived Formsshell-less, adjectiveshelly, adjective

Word Origin for shell

Old English sciell; related to Old Norse skel shell, Gothic skalja tile, Middle Low German schelle shell; see scale 1, shale


/ (ʃiːl, unstressed ʃɪl) /

contraction of

she will or she shall
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 shell
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Science definitions for shell


[ shĕl ]

  1. The usually hard outer covering of certain animals, such as mollusks, insects, and turtles.
  2. The hard outer covering of a bird's egg.
  3. The hard outer covering of a seed, nut, or fruit.
  1. A set of electron orbitals that have nearly the same energy. Electrons in outer shells have greater energy than those in shells closer to the nucleus. Elements in the Periodic Table range from the lightest elements with electrons normally occupying one shell (hydrogen and helium) to the heaviest, with electrons in seven shells (radium and uranium, for instance). See more at atomic spectrum orbital subshell. See Note at metal.
  2. Any of the stable states of other particles or collections of particles (such as the nucleons in an atomic nucleus) at a given energy or small range of energies.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with shell


In addition to the idiom beginning with shell

  • shell out

also see:

  • in one's shell
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.