\ˈshaft \
plural shafts\ ˈshaf(t)s , 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 \ : 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 the gave 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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Examples of shaft in a Sentence


the shaft of a spear the shaft of a golf club


You really got shafted in that deal.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Burning fuel traveling down the elevator shafts would have disrupted the elevator systems and caused extensive damage to the lobbies. Popular Mechanics Editors, Popular Mechanics, "Debunking the 9/11 Myths: Special Report - The World Trade Center," 10 Sep. 2018 The depository, known as the Roosevelt Warehouse, became infamous a decade ago after a man's body was found upside down and encased in ice in the building's elevator shaft. Detroit Free Press, "Ford would demolish this vacant Detroit building," 21 June 2018 At the end of that terrible day, 146 workers had died — their young bodies either broken on the sidewalk after jumping, suffocated inside an elevator shaft, or burned alive on the factory floor. Kim Kelly, Teen Vogue, "Demonstrators Remembered the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire," 26 Mar. 2018 In 2014, the owners revised an existing permit to renovate the property to expand the basement and add an elevator shaft and stairway. J.k. Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle, "Homes in SF, some historic, illegally demolished by developers," 6 Jan. 2018 Their bodies were first disposed of in a mine shaft, then retrieved and deposited into a shallow grave in the Koptayki Forest. Anna Diamond, Smithsonian, "A Century Ago, the Romanovs Met a Gruesome End," 26 June 2018 In short order, a man whose face is conveniently obscured by shafts of evil light puts an implant in the back of her head. Jason Kehe, WIRED, "Sci-Fi Invades Netflix—as They Both Invade Your Home," 9 July 2018 Such intimate gestures arrive like shafts of light throughout this lyrical and affecting collection, sparing us briefly from the dark. Tania James, New York Times, "Debut Stories Trace the Aftershocks of the Sri Lankan Civil War," 5 July 2018 It had been bisected by hundreds of joss sticks, which stuck out from the figure like the shafts of arrows; these were methodically lit after dinner during the performance by the artist and her assistants, who wielded blow torches. Alessandra Codinha, Vogue, "Prune Nourry's "The Amazon" Arrives at the Standard Highline in New York," 22 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 But some of the same forces that contributed to Trump’s victory here feed the skepticism over the tax bill — a sense that working people are getting shafted, a jaded view of Washington, and deep skepticism toward Congress. Craig Gilbert, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "GOP tax cuts generate little excitement in blue-collar county that swung hard for Trump," 18 Dec. 2017 The government was forced to redraft certain settlements with owners after shafting them by not accounting for valuable nearby water rights. James Warren, The Hive, "The Massive, Botched Land Grab Behind Trump’s Border Wall," 14 Dec. 2017 For one, Wonder Woman was completely shafted, as was the sublimely hilarious Girls Trip. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "14 Golden Globes 2018 Snubs We Just Can't Get Over," 11 Dec. 2017 New characters Billy and Max got shafted in comparison to Bob and Dr. Owens. Nathan Mattise, Ars Technica, "The end of Stranger Things S2 slays whatever early-season nitpicks existed," 12 Nov. 2017 Almost all the pillars of President Trump's presidency — immigration, jobs, mistrust of allies, coloring Washington as a feckless, greedy swamp — can be traced back to one of his core beliefs: America is getting shafted by the rest of the world. Amber Phillips, Washington Post, "How Trump’s ‘America first’ doctrine drives everything he does — including getting elected," 19 Sep. 2017 Government watchdogs trying to gain access to visitors logs at Mar-a-Lago were shafted when those logs were finally released, the Associated Press's Jill Colvin reports. Dan Sweeney,, "Counting the costs of Hurricane Irma," 18 Sep. 2017

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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Statistics for shaft

Last Updated

15 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for shaft

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

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More Definitions for shaft



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)

: to treat (someone) unfairly or harshly


\ˈshaft \

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 \
plural shafts\ ˈshaf(t)s \

Medical Definition of shaft 

: a long slender cylindrical body or part: as

a : the cylindrical part of a long bone between the enlarged ends

b : hair shaft

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Comments on shaft

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


by force of circumstances

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