verb (used with object)

to evade (work, duty, responsibility, etc.).

verb (used without object)

to evade work, duty, etc.


Origin of shirk

First recorded in 1625–35; obscurely akin to shark2
Related formsun·shirked, adjectiveun·shirk·ing, adjective

Synonyms for shirk Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for shirk

Contemporary Examples of shirk

Historical Examples of shirk

  • We have duties to others and duties to ourselves; and we can shirk neither.

  • You work till you are tired of it; then you go off and shirk, and call it studying.

    The Dominant Strain

    Anna Chapin Ray

  • And here the demagogue arose and bade her shirk no issue, even the red flag.

    The Prisoner

    Alice Brown

  • I do not court publicity, but I cannot shirk my duty because it entails that.

    The Crevice

    William John Burns and Isabel Ostrander

  • Sick of life—to tell you the truth; but what would have been the good to shirk it—in—in—that way?

    Lord Jim

    Joseph Conrad

British Dictionary definitions for shirk




to avoid discharging (work, a duty, etc); evade

noun Also: shirker

a person who shirks

Word Origin for shirk

C17: probably from German Schurke rogue; see shark ²




  1. the fundamental sin of regarding anything as equal to Allah
  2. any belief that is considered to be in opposition to Allah and Islam

Word Origin for shirk

from Arabic: association
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 shirk

1630s, "to practice fraud or trickery," also a noun (1630s, now obsolete) "a needy, disreputable parasite" [OED], perhaps from German schurke "scoundrel, rogue, knave, villain" (see shark (n.)). Sense of "evade one's work or duty" first recorded 1785, originally in slang. Related: Shirked; shirking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper