noun Slang.

an utter defeat: a shellacking their team will remember.
a sound thrashing: His father gave him a shellacking for stealing the book.


Origin of shellacking

First recorded in 1880–85; shellac + -ing1


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

Examples from the Web for shellacking

Contemporary Examples of shellacking

Historical Examples of shellacking

  • By repeated oiling and shellacking one produces a French polish that is very durable and elastic.

  • On no account finally connect up the battery to a circuit when shellacking the wire.

    Electric Gas Lighting

    Norman H. Schneider

  • Shellacking of covers has been advocated by some librarians, but it is doubtful if it pays.

    Library Bookbinding

    Arthur Low Bailey

British Dictionary definitions for shellacking



slang, mainly US and Canadian a complete defeat; a sound beatinganyone who gives a shellacking to their bigger neighbours



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 shellacking



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

Idioms and Phrases with shellacking


see take a shellacking.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.