[ shel ]
See synonyms for: shellshelledshellingshells on

  1. a hard outer covering of an animal, as the hard case of a mollusk, or either half of the case of a bivalve mollusk.

  2. any of various objects resembling such a covering, as in shape or in being more or less concave or hollow.

  1. the material constituting any of various coverings of this kind.

  2. the hard exterior of an egg.

  3. the usually hard, outer covering of a seed, fruit, or the like, as the hard outside portion of a nut, the pod of peas, etc.

  4. a hard, protecting or enclosing case or cover.

  5. an attitude or manner of reserve that usually conceals one's emotions, thoughts, etc.: One could not penetrate his shell.

  6. a hollow projectile for a cannon, mortar, etc., filled with an explosive charge designed to explode during flight, upon impact, or after penetration.

  7. a metallic cartridge used in small arms and small artillery pieces.

  8. a metal or paper cartridge, as for use in a shotgun.

  9. a cartridgelike pyrotechnic device that explodes in the air.

  10. shells, Italian Cooking. small pieces of pasta having the shape of a shell.

  11. the lower pastry crust of a pie, tart, or the like, baked before the filling is added.

  12. Computers. a program providing a menu-driven or graphical user interface designed to simplify use of the operating system, as in loading application programs.

  13. Physics.

    • any of up to seven energy levels on which an electron may exist within an atom, the energies of the electrons on the same level being equal and on different levels being unequal.

    • a group of nucleons of approximately the same energy.

  14. a light, long, narrow racing boat, for rowing by one or more persons.

  15. the outer part of a finished garment that has a lining, especially a detachable lining.

  16. a woman's sleeveless blouse or sweater, especially one meant for wear under a suit jacket.

  17. Nautical. the plating, planking, or the like, covering the ribs and forming the exterior hull of a vessel.

  18. a mollusk.

  19. Engineering. the curved solid forming a dome or vault.

  20. an arena or stadium covered by a domed or arched roof.

  21. a saucer-shaped arena or stadium.

  22. the framework, external structure, or walls and roof of a building: After the fire, only the shell of the school was left.

  23. a small glass for beer.

  24. the metal, pressure-resistant outer casing of a fire-tube boiler.

  25. Metallurgy.

    • a scab on the surface of an ingot.

    • a length of unfinished tubing.

    • a pierced forging.

    • a hollow object made by deep drawing.

verb (used with object)
  1. to take out of the shell, pod, etc.; remove the shell of.

  2. to separate (Indian corn, grain, etc.) from the ear, cob, or husk.

  1. to fire shells or explosive projectiles into, upon, or among; bombard.

verb (used without object)
  1. to fall or come out of the shell, husk, etc.

  2. to come away or fall off, as a shell or outer coat.

  1. to gather sea shells: We spent the whole morning shelling while the tide was out.

Verb Phrases
  1. shell out, Informal. to hand over (money); contribute; pay.

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

Other words from shell

  • shell-less, adjective
  • shell-like, adjective
  • de-shell, verb (used with object)

Other definitions for she'll (2 of 2)

[ sheel; unstressed shil ]

  1. contraction of she will.

usage note For she'll Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use shell in a sentence

  • First a shower of shells dropping all along the lower ridges and out over the surface of the Bay.

  • From dawn to breakfast time all hands busy slinging shells—modern war sinews—piles of them—aboard.

  • The shells came from Asia and Achi Baba:—in a fiery shower, they fell upon the lines of our front trenches.

  • But, before they can be used for this purpose, these leaves are coated with lime made from oyster shells and then folded up.

  • On the 18th fifty heavy shells, including 12-inch and 14-inch, dropped out of the blue vault of heaven on to the Anzacs.

British Dictionary definitions for shell (1 of 2)


/ (ʃɛl) /

  1. the protective calcareous or membranous outer layer of an egg, esp a bird's egg

  2. the hard outer covering of many molluscs that is secreted by the mantle

  1. any other hard outer layer, such as the exoskeleton of many arthropods

  2. the hard outer layer of some fruits, esp of nuts

  3. any hard outer case

  4. a hollow artillery projectile filled with explosive primed to explode either during flight, on impact, or after penetration: Compare ball 1 (def. 7a)

  5. a small-arms cartridge comprising a hollow casing inside which is the primer, charge, and bullet

  6. a pyrotechnic cartridge designed to explode in the air

  7. rowing a very light narrow racing boat

  8. the external structure of a building, esp one that is unfinished or one that has been gutted by fire

  9. the basic structural case of something, such as a machine, vehicle, etc

  10. physics

    • a class of electron orbits in an atom in which the electrons have the same principal quantum number and orbital angular momentum quantum number and differences in their energy are small compared with differences in energy between shells

    • an analogous energy state of nucleons in certain theories (shell models) of the structure of the atomic nucleus

  11. the pastry case of a pie, flan, etc

  12. a thin slab of concrete or a skeletal framework made of wood or metal that forms a shell-like roof

  13. British (in some schools) a class or form

  14. come out of one's shell to become less shy and reserved

  15. bring out of one's shell to help to become less shy and reserved

  1. to divest or be divested of a shell, husk, pod, etc

  2. to separate or be separated from an ear, husk, cob, etc

  1. (tr) to bombard with artillery shells

Origin of shell

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

Derived forms of shell

  • shell-less, adjective
  • shelly, adjective

British Dictionary definitions for she'll (2 of 2)


/ (ʃiːl, unstressed ʃɪl) /

contraction of
  1. 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

Scientific definitions for shell


[ shĕl ]

    • The usually hard outer covering of certain animals, such as mollusks, insects, and turtles.

    • The hard outer covering of a bird's egg.

    • The hard outer covering of a seed, nut, or fruit.

    • 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.

    • 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.

Other 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.