or shel·lack



lac that has been purified and formed into thin sheets, used for making varnish.
a varnish (shellac varnish) made by dissolving this material in alcohol or a similar solvent.
a phonograph record made of a breakable material containing shellac, especially one to be played at 78 r.p.m.: an LP that can hold nearly 10 times as much as the old shellac.

verb (used with object), shel·lacked, shel·lack·ing.

to coat or treat with shellac.
  1. to defeat; trounce.
  2. to thrash soundly.

Origin of shellac

1705–15; shell + lac1, translation of French laque en écailles lac in thin plates Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for shellac

strike, varnish, trounce, defeat

Examples from the Web for shellac

Historical Examples of shellac

  • A sine qua non is that the glass be hot enough to melt the shellac.

    On Laboratory Arts

    Richard Threlfall

  • The cement consists of a mixture of shellac and 10 per cent of oil of cassia.

    On Laboratory Arts

    Richard Threlfall

  • On no account must the shellac be allowed to get overheated.

    On Laboratory Arts

    Richard Threlfall

  • It is then coated with shellac by heating and rubbing upon the shellac.

    On Laboratory Arts

    Richard Threlfall

  • Shellac is the most common and the most useful of the spirit varnishes.

    Handwork in Wood

    William Noyes

British Dictionary definitions for shellac



a yellowish resin secreted by the lac insect, esp a commercial preparation of this used in varnishes, polishes, and leather dressings
Also called: shellac varnish a varnish made by dissolving shellac in ethanol or a similar solvent
a gramophone record based on shellac

verb -lacs, -lacking or -lacked (tr)

to coat or treat (an article) with a shellac varnish
US slang to defeat completely
Derived Formsshellacker, noun

Word Origin for shellac

C18: shell + lac 1, translation of French laque en écailles, literally: lac in scales, that is, in thin plates
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 shellac

1713, from shell (n.) + lac (see lacquer). Translates French laque en écailles "lac in thin plates."


1876, from shellack (n.). The slang sense of "beat soundly" is 1920s, perhaps from the notion of shellac as a "finish." Shellacked "drunk" is from 1922 (cf. plastered). Related: Shellacking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper