Origin of shrug

1350–1400; (v.) Middle English schruggen to shudder, shrug < ?; (noun) late Middle English shrugge a tug, pull, derivative of the v.
Related formsun·shrug·ging, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for shrug

Contemporary Examples of shrug

Historical Examples of shrug

  • He returned with a shrug of the shoulders to his table in the morning-room.


    William J. Locke

  • The shoulders of Mr Verloc, without actually moving, suggested a shrug.

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

  • "They are paying themselves for the mules and horses," said Fray Henriques with a shrug.

    Fair Margaret

    H. Rider Haggard

  • "That you will find out," she said, with a shrug of her shoulders.

    Fair Margaret

    H. Rider Haggard

  • A machine which makes a Frenchman shrug his shoulders with good reason.

British Dictionary definitions for shrug


verb shrugs, shrugging or shrugged

to draw up and drop (the shoulders) abruptly in a gesture expressing indifference, contempt, ignorance, etc


the gesture so made
a woman's short jacket or close-fitting cardigan

Word Origin for shrug

C14: of uncertain origin
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 shrug

c.1400, schurgyng, of uncertain origin. Perhaps connected to Danish skrugge "to stoop, crouch." Related: Shrugged; shrugging. To shrug (something) off "dismiss" is recorded from 1909.


a shoulder motion meant to express indifference, want of an answer, etc., 1590s, from shrug (v.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper