\ ˈshaft How to pronounce shaft (audio) \
plural shafts\ ˈshaf(t)s How to pronounce shafts (audio) , for sense 1b usually  ˈshavz \

Definition of shaft

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a(1) : the long handle of a spear or similar weapon
(2) : spear, lance
b or plural shaves\ ˈshavz How to pronounce shaves (audio) \ : pole specifically : either of two long pieces of wood between which a horse is hitched to a vehicle
c(1) : an arrow especially for a longbow
(2) : the body or stem of an arrow extending from the nock to the head
2 : a sharply delineated beam of light shining through an opening
3 : something suggestive of the shaft of a spear or arrow especially in long slender cylindrical form: such as
a : the trunk of a tree
b : the cylindrical pillar between the capital and the base
c : the handle of a tool or instrument (such as a golf club)
d : a commonly cylindrical bar used to support rotating pieces or to transmit power or motion by rotation
e : the stem or central axis of a feather
f : the upright member of a cross especially below the arms
g : the cylindrical part of a long bone between the enlarged ends
h : a small architectural column (as at each side of a doorway)
i : a column, obelisk, or other spire-shaped or columnar monument
j : a vertical or inclined opening of uniform and limited cross section made for finding or mining ore, raising water, or ventilating underground workings (as in a cave)
k : the part of a hair that is visible above the surface of the skin — see hair illustration
l : a vertical opening or passage through the floors of a building
4a : a projectile thrown like a spear or shot like an arrow
b : a scornful, satirical, or pithily critical remark or attack
c : harsh or unfair treatment usually used with thegave them the shaft


shafted; shafting; shafts

Definition of shaft (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to fit with a shaft
2 : to treat unfairly or harshly

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Synonyms for shaft

Synonyms: Noun

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Examples of shaft in a Sentence

Noun the shaft of a spear the shaft of a golf club Verb You really got shafted in that deal.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The plastic body of the Bic 4-Color Ballpoint houses four shafts, each one a different hue and deployed by its own lever. Rob Verger, Popular Science, "Eight great pens to match your writing style," 18 Apr. 2020 There was the first time someone knapped and hafted a rock onto a spear shaft, and the first time someone strung up a bow. Tyler Freel, Outdoor Life, "Will All This New Technology Ruin Hunting? In Short, No," 19 Mar. 2020 What at first might seem an airy, even Zenlike succession of shafts, gives way to a near-delirium of zany variation. Lawrence Weschler, New York Times, "Robert Irwin’s Ambient Odyssey," 13 Feb. 2020 The homes feature elevator shafts, outdoor living spaces and storage options. Houston Chronicle, "Somerset Green offers reimagined Inner-Loop living," 1 Feb. 2020 Adult lice can lay and attach their eggs (or nits) to the base of the hair shaft. Jolie Kerr, New York Times, "How to Tame Common Childhood Plagues," 19 Apr. 2020 This is despite Hyundai's nifty Active Shift Control for the six-speed, which uses the electric motor to add or remove torque at the input shaft to make gear changes quicker and smoother. Elana Scherr, Car and Driver, "2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Combines Style, Tech, and Fuel Efficiency," 10 Apr. 2020 But the anti-lockdown demonstrations erupting around the country are the canary in the coronavirus mine shaft. Daniel Henninger, WSJ, "How We’ll Live With Coronavirus," 22 Apr. 2020 On the second floor, where our living space is, there are thick walls around a shaft that runs from the basement to the second floor. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Home with a vault: Couple turn a historic Waukesha bank building into their home, office," 19 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Lind’s heart genuinely hurts for those shafted by oligarchy. New York Times, "Why Do Trump Supporters Support Trump?," 17 Jan. 2020 The Coyotes always seem to get shafted by the schedule, and their gauntlet of games to open the 2019-20 season doesn't appear any different. Richard Morin, azcentral, "Coyotes fall to Bruins with challenging October schedule ahead," 5 Oct. 2019 The unfounded hostility to that film basically killed its release and then shafted the chances of the movie and of Ryan Gosling’s contemplative performance in the awards races. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "Hollywood Reporter Film Critics Debate: Does 'Joker' Have a Problematic Punchline?," 1 Oct. 2019 Do your research, ask questions and go over every detail personally to avoid being shafted or misinformed. Eugenia Last, The Mercury News, "Horoscopes: Sept. 18, 2019," 18 Sep. 2019 Only a socialist could do that to his brother, only a socialist could regard familial ties as being so trivial as to shaft his own brother. Julia Webster, Time, "U.K. Prime Minister's Brother Resigns From Government: 'Torn Between Family Loyalty and the National Interest'," 5 Sep. 2019 Part of the problem, experts say, is that health care fraud is often misunderstood as shafting greedy insurers — not the folks paying for health insurance. Marshall Allen, ProPublica, "Health Insurers Make It Easy for Scammers to Steal Millions. Who Pays? You.," 19 July 2019 How can the Bulldogs get to the second weekend, fans ask, if they are shafted in their seed line? David Woods, Indianapolis Star, "Insider: How they play, more than how they're seeded, matters to Bulldogs," 10 Mar. 2018 But unity remains elusive for the party whose ugly presidential primary in 2016 led to Hillary Clinton mortally damaged on Election Day after Bernie Sanders supporters left her high and dry, embittered that the party had shafted their man. Maria Panaritis,, "For Pa. Democrats, family feud threatens gerrymandering joy | Maria Panaritis," 14 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'shaft.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of shaft


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)


1611, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for shaft


Middle English, from Old English sceaft; akin to Old High German scaft shaft, Latin scapus shaft, stalk, Greek skēptesthai to prop oneself, lean

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Time Traveler for shaft

Time Traveler

The first known use of shaft was before the 12th century

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Statistics for shaft

Last Updated

30 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Shaft.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for shaft


How to pronounce shaft (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of shaft

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the long, narrow part of a weapon, tool, instrument, etc.
: a bar in a machine which holds or turns other parts that move or spin
: one of two poles between which a horse is tied to pull a vehicle (such as a carriage)



English Language Learners Definition of shaft (Entry 2 of 2)

chiefly US, informal : to treat (someone) unfairly or harshly


\ ˈshaft How to pronounce shaft (audio) \

Kids Definition of shaft

1 : the long handle of a weapon, tool, or instrument the shaft of a spear the shaft of a golf club
2 : one of two poles between which a horse is hitched to pull a wagon or carriage
3 : an arrow or its narrow stem
4 : a narrow beam of light
5 : a long narrow part or structure especially when round the shaft of a feather
6 : a mine opening made for finding or mining ore
7 : an opening or passage straight down through the floors of a building an air shaft an elevator shaft
8 : a bar to support rotating pieces of machinery or to give them motion


\ ˈshaft How to pronounce shaft (audio) \
plural shafts\ ˈshaf(t)s How to pronounce shafts (audio) \

Medical Definition of shaft

: a long slender cylindrical body or part: as
a : the cylindrical part of a long bone between the enlarged ends

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More from Merriam-Webster on shaft

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for shaft

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with shaft

Spanish Central: Translation of shaft

Nglish: Translation of shaft for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of shaft for Arabic Speakers

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