[ shohl-der ]
See synonyms for: shouldershoulderedshoulderingshoulders on

  1. the part of each side of the body in humans, at the top of the trunk, extending from each side of the base of the neck to the region where the arm articulates with the trunk.

  2. Usually shoulders . these two parts together with the part of the back joining them.

  1. a corresponding part in animals.

  2. the upper foreleg and adjoining parts of a sheep, goat, etc.

  3. the joint connecting the arm or the foreleg with the trunk.

  4. a shoulderlike part or projection.

  5. Ornithology. the bend of a bird's wing, between the hand and the forearm, especially when distinctively colored, as in the red-shouldered hawk, Buteo lineatus.

  6. a cut of meat that includes the upper joint of the foreleg.

  7. Often shoulders .Informal. capacity for bearing responsibility or blame or sympathizing with other people: If you want to tell me your troubles, I have broad shoulders.

  8. a steplike change in the contour of an object, as for opposing or limiting motion along it or for an abutment.

  9. Carpentry.

    • the end surface or surfaces of a piece from which a tenon or tenons project.

    • an inclined and raised surface, as on a joggle post, for receiving and supporting the foot of a strut or the like.

  10. Fortification. the angle of a bastion between the face and the flank.

  11. Printing. the flat surface on a type body extending beyond the base of the letter or character.

  12. the part of a garment that covers, or fits over, the shoulder.

  13. (in leather manufacturing) that part of the hide anterior to the butt.

  14. either of the two edges or borders along a road, especially that portion on which vehicles can be parked in emergencies.: Compare soft shoulder.

  15. Furniture. knee (def. 6).

verb (used with object)
  1. to push with or as if with the shoulder, especially roughly: to shoulder someone aside.

  2. to take upon, support, or carry on or as if on the shoulder or shoulders: He shouldered his knapsack and walked on.

  1. to assume as a responsibility: to shoulder the expense.

verb (used without object)
  1. to push with or as if with the shoulder: to shoulder through a crowd.

Idioms about shoulder

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  1. rub shoulders with, to come into association with; mingle with: The gallery was a space where bohemian artists would rub shoulders with both affluent collectors and the general public.

  2. shoulder arms, Military.

    • to place a rifle muzzle upward on the right or left shoulder, with the buttstock in the corresponding hand.

    • the command to shoulder arms.

  3. shoulder to shoulder, side by side; with united effort: The volunteers worked shoulder to shoulder with the locals in harvesting the crops.

  4. straight from the shoulder, without evasion; directly; candidly: The lawyer told him straight from the shoulder that his case was weak.

Origin of shoulder

First recorded before 900; Middle English noun sholder, s(c)hulder, Old English sculdor; cognate with Dutch schouder, German Schulter; the verb is derivative of the noun

Other words for shoulder

Other words from shoulder

  • outshoulder, verb (used with object)
  • re·shoul·der, verb (used with object)
  • un·shoul·dered, adjective

Words Nearby shoulder Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use shoulder in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for shoulder


/ (ˈʃəʊldə) /

  1. the part of the vertebrate body where the arm or a corresponding forelimb joins the trunk: the pectoral girdle and associated structures

  2. the joint at the junction of the forelimb with the pectoral girdle

  1. a cut of meat including the upper part of the foreleg

  2. printing the flat surface of a piece of type from which the face rises

  3. tanning the portion of a hide covering the shoulders and neck of the animal, usually including the cheeks

  4. the part of a garment that covers the shoulder

  5. anything that resembles a shoulder in shape or position

  6. the strip of unpaved land that borders a road

  7. engineering a substantial projection or abrupt change in shape or diameter designed to withstand thrust

  8. photog the portion of the characteristic curve of a photographic material indicating the maximum density that can be produced on the material

  9. jewellery the part of a ring where the shank joins the setting

  10. a shoulder to cry on a person one turns to for sympathy with one's troubles

  11. give someone the cold shoulder informal

    • to treat someone in a cold manner; snub

    • to ignore or shun someone

  12. put one's shoulder to the wheel informal to work very hard

  13. rub shoulders with See rub (def. 11)

  14. shoulder to shoulder

    • side by side or close together

    • in a corporate effort

  1. (tr) to bear or carry (a burden, responsibility, etc) as if on one's shoulders

  2. to push (something) with or as if with the shoulder

  1. (tr) to lift or carry on the shoulders

  2. shoulder arms military to bring the rifle vertically close to the right side with the muzzle uppermost and held at the trigger guard

Origin of 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

Other Idioms and Phrases with shoulder


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.