noun \ˈshel\

: the hard outer covering of an animal, insect, etc., that protects it

: the hard outer covering of an egg

: the hard outer covering of a nut, fruit, or seed

Full Definition of SHELL

a :  a hard rigid usually largely calcareous covering or support of an animal
b :  the hard or tough often thin outer covering of an egg (as of a bird or reptile) — see egg illustration
:  the covering or outside part of a fruit or seed especially when hard or fibrous
:  shell material (as of mollusks or turtles) or their substance
:  something that resembles a shell: as
a :  a framework or exterior structure; especially :  a building with an unfinished interior
b (1) :  an external case or outside covering <the shell of a ship>
(2) :  a thin usually spherical layer or surface enclosing a space or surrounding an object <an expanding shell of gas around a neutron star>
c :  a casing without substance <mere effigies and shells of men — Thomas Carlyle>
d :  an edible crust for holding a filling <a pastry shell> <a taco salad in a tortilla shell>
e :  band shell
f :  a small beer glass
g :  an unlined article of outerwear
:  a shell-bearing mollusk
:  an impersonal attitude or manner that conceals the presence or absence of feeling <he retreated into his shell>
:  a narrow light racing boat propelled by one or more persons pulling oars or sculls
:  any of the regions occupied by the orbits of a group of electrons of approximately equal energy surrounding the nucleus of an atom
a :  a projectile for cannon containing an explosive bursting charge
b :  a metal or paper case which holds the charge of powder and shot or bullet used with breech-loading small arms
:  a plain usually sleeveless blouse or sweater
:  a company or corporation that exists without assets or independent operations as a legal entity through which another company or corporation can conduct various dealings
shell adjective

Examples of SHELL

  1. the shell of a crab
  2. We collected shells at the beach.
  3. We're going to have stuffed shells for dinner.

Origin of SHELL

Middle English, from Old English sciell; akin to Old English scealu shell, Old Norse skel, Lithuanian skelti to split, Greek skallein to hoe
First Known Use: before 12th century



: to remove the shell or outer covering of (something)

: to shoot shells at (someone or something) using large guns

: to score heavily against (a pitcher) in baseball

Full Definition of SHELL

transitive verb
a :  to take out of a natural enclosing cover (as a shell, husk, pod, or capsule) <shell peanuts>
b :  to separate the kernels of (as an ear of Indian corn, wheat, or oats) from the cob, ear, or husk
:  to throw shells at, upon, or into :  bombard
:  to score heavily against (as an opposing pitcher in baseball)
intransitive verb
:  to fall or scale off in thin pieces
:  to cast the shell or exterior covering :  fall out of the pod or husk <nuts which shell in falling>
:  to gather shells (as from a beach)

Examples of SHELL

  1. They shelled the enemy troops.
  2. The town was shelled during the battle.

First Known Use of SHELL


Related to SHELL


noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

Artillery projectile, cartridge case, or shotgun cartridge. It originated in the 15th century as a container for metal or stone shot, dispersed when the container burst after leaving the gun. Explosive shells, in use by the 16th century, were hollow cast-iron balls filled with gunpowder and lit by a fuse. Until the 18th century, such shells were used only in high-angle fire (including mortars). In the 19th century, shells were adopted for direct-fire artillery, notably in the form of shrapnel. Modern artillery shells consist of a casing (usually steel), a propelling charge, and a bursting charge; the propelling charge is ignited by a primer at the base of the shell and the bursting charge by a fuse in the nose. In rifle, pistol, and machine-gun ammunition, the word usually signifies the brass casing that contains the propulsive charge. In shotgun ammunition, the shell is the entire cartridge, including shot, powder, primer, and case.


Next Word in the Dictionary: she'll
Previous Word in the Dictionary: shelfy
All Words Near: shell

Seen & Heard

What made you want to look up shell? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).