\ 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 For a few hours on Wednesday night during the NBA draft, a shaft of light shone on 2020 with dreams realized after years of hard work and sacrifice by players and their family and friends. Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY, "Opinion: NBA prospects shed tears, share struggles on draft night, and that's not a bad thing," 19 Nov. 2020 Triton, Latrobe’s Mississippi River lighthouse would feature a typical conical shaft, standing 81 feet tall and topped with a beaming beacon. Mike Scott,, "Thomas Jefferson's grand plan for a Gulf Coast lighthouse survived after an initial dark period," 17 Nov. 2020 The tube is placed over the shaft, and the spearfisherman holds on to the tube and releases the spear. Popular Science, "Take a stab at spearfishing with these tips," 16 Nov. 2020 The type that is the least welcome here at Allure is hair breakage, which is related to the actual fissures of hair fibers along the shaft. Loren Savini, Allure, "How to Stop Hair Breakage Before It Starts," 12 Nov. 2020 In the video, five Emad missiles are closely spaced on the rail system, then roll farther down a tunnel shaft. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "Iran's New Underground Missile Base Looks Mildly Terrifying. See for Yourself.," 5 Nov. 2020 It was pushed to a second OT when the shaft of Khudobin’s stick made a stop on Tyler Johnson in overtime, and when Pavelski and Mattias Janmark both blocked shots, and when Benn missed the net and then passed up a chance to shoot. Matthew Defranks, Dallas News, "Stars force Game 6 with gutsy win over Lightning in double-overtime thriller," 26 Sep. 2020 Standing 640 feet high, the shaft’s top is filled with molten salt. National Geographic, "What we know about airborne coronavirus," 12 Aug. 2020 DeChambeau has been practicing with a driver that has an 48-inch shaft, the longest allowed in the rules. Bill Pennington, New York Times, "Detonating the Masters, One Power Drive at a Time," 10 Nov. 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

26 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Shaft.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 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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