\ 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 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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Synonyms for shaft

Synonyms: Noun

beam, ray

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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

This hair type tends to get oily and greasy pretty quickly, as the oils at your root gravitate down the hair shaft. Yerin Kim, Seventeen, "This Is How Often You Should Really Be Washing Your Hair," 12 Apr. 2019 Each product container is larger than other Oribe products because those with textured hair need more moisture to penetrate the hair shaft, Ciceron explains. Akili King, Vogue, "Meet the Natural Hair Guru Who Helped Oribe Launch Products For Textured Tresses," 4 Apr. 2019 According to Virtue, adding Alpha Keratin 60ku Reactive to the dye fills the hair shaft with protein and seals the cuticle, leaving behind shiny, healthy hair. Elizabeth Denton, Allure, "Virtue's New Protein Powder Made My Damaged, Color-Treated Hair Look Like New," 19 Mar. 2019 The distillery is named after the structure that supports the hoisting pulleys over a mine shaft. Francine Maroukian, Popular Mechanics, "Micro Distilling Goes Macro," 27 May 2016 Thirty-six of the workers were found in the elevator shaft. Marlena Scott, Teen Vogue, "Many Women Who Died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911 Were Young Immigrants," 25 Mar. 2019 Masons may pour a concrete wheelchair ramp at a house one day, do a brick face on a shopping center the next, and then move on to build a concrete-block elevator shaft for a condominium complex. Roy Berendsohn, Popular Mechanics, "How to Become a Skilled Tradesperson," 13 Mar. 2019 That Swing Arm Is a Work of Art The Ryker uses a shaft drive to get the power from the engine to the rear wheel, and without a belt drive or chain, the single-sided aluminum swing arm looks clean and beautiful. Ben Stewart, Popular Mechanics, "8 Cool Things About the Can-Am Ryker," 13 Nov. 2018 Waters said paramedics cut off part of the shaft to facilitate transportation to a hospital. Martin Weil, The Seattle Times, "Pennsylvania woman stable after being impaled by umbrella on Maryland beach," 23 July 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

17 May 2019

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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)

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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with shaft

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for shaft

Spanish Central: Translation of shaft

Nglish: Translation of shaft for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of shaft for Arabic Speakers

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).


to mark by some ceremony or observation

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