verb (used with object)

verb (used without object)

to push with or as if with the shoulder: to shoulder through a crowd.


    cry on someone's shoulder, to reveal one's problems to another person in order to obtain sympathy: Don't cry on my shoulder—this mess is your own fault.
    put one's shoulder to the wheel, to work energetically toward a goal; put forth effort: If we put our shoulders to the wheel, we'll be able to finish the job soon.
    rub shoulders with, to come into association with; mingle with: As a social worker in one of the worst slum areas, she rubs shoulders with the poor and the helpless.
    shoulder arms, Military.
    1. to place a rifle muzzle upward on the right or left shoulder, with the buttstock in the corresponding hand.
    2. the command to shoulder arms.
    shoulder to shoulder, side by side; with united effort: The volunteers worked shoulder to shoulder with the natives in harvesting the crops.
    straight from the shoulder, without evasion; directly; candidly: The lawyer told him straight from the shoulder that his case was weak.

Origin of shoulder

before 900; (noun) Middle English sholder, s(c)hulder, Old English sculdor; cognate with Dutch schouder, German Schulter; (v.) Middle English shulderen, derivative of the noun
Related formsout·shoul·der, verb (used with object)re·shoul·der, verb (used with object)un·shoul·dered, adjective

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

British Dictionary definitions for shoulder to shoulder



the part of the vertebrate body where the arm or a corresponding forelimb joins the trunk: the pectoral girdle and associated structures
the joint at the junction of the forelimb with the pectoral girdle
a cut of meat including the upper part of the foreleg
printing the flat surface of a piece of type from which the face rises
tanning the portion of a hide covering the shoulders and neck of the animal, usually including the cheeks
the part of a garment that covers the shoulder
anything that resembles a shoulder in shape or position
the strip of unpaved land that borders a road
engineering a substantial projection or abrupt change in shape or diameter designed to withstand thrust
photog the portion of the characteristic curve of a photographic material indicating the maximum density that can be produced on the material
jewellery the part of a ring where the shank joins the setting
a shoulder to cry on a person one turns to for sympathy with one's troubles
give someone the cold shoulder informal
  1. to treat someone in a cold manner; snub
  2. to ignore or shun someone
put one's shoulder to the wheel informal to work very hard
rub shoulders with See rub (def. 11)
shoulder to shoulder
  1. side by side or close together
  2. in a corporate effort


(tr) to bear or carry (a burden, responsibility, etc) as if on one's shoulders
to push (something) with or as if with the shoulder
(tr) to lift or carry on the shoulders
shoulder arms military to bring the rifle vertically close to the right side with the muzzle uppermost and held at the trigger guard

Word Origin for shoulder

Old English sculdor; related to Old High German sculterra
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 shoulder to shoulder



Old English sculdor "shoulder," from West Germanic *skuldro (cf. Middle Dutch scouder, Dutch schouder, Old Frisian skoldere, Middle Low German scholder, Old High German scultra, German Schulter), of unknown origin, perhaps related to shield (n.). Meaning "edge of the road" is attested from 1933. Cold shoulder (Neh. ix:29) translates Latin humerum recedentum dare in Vulgate (but see cold shoulder). Shoulder-length, of hair, is from 1951.



c.1300, "to push with the shoulder," from shoulder (n.). Meaning "take a burden" first recorded 1580s. The military sense is from 1590s. Related: Shouldered; shouldering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for shoulder to shoulder




The joint connecting the arm with the torso.
The part of the human body between the neck and upper arm.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with shoulder to shoulder

shoulder to shoulder

In close proximity or cooperation, as in The volunteers worked shoulder to shoulder in the effort to rescue the miners. This expression originated in the late 1500s in the military, at first signifying troops in close formation. Its figurative use dates from the late 1800s.


In addition to the idiom beginning with shoulder

  • shoulder to shoulder

also see:

  • broad shoulders
  • chip on one's shoulder
  • cold shoulder
  • cry on someone's shoulder
  • good head on one's shoulders
  • head and shoulders above
  • on one's shoulders
  • put one's shoulder to the wheel
  • rub elbows (shoulders) with
  • shrug one's shoulders
  • square one's shoulders
  • straight from the shoulder
  • weight of the world on one's shoulders
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.