1 of 3

noun (1)

: any of numerous mostly marine cartilaginous fishes of medium to large size that have a fusiform body, lateral branchial clefts, and a tough usually dull gray skin roughened by minute tubercles and are typically active predators sometimes dangerous to humans
sharklike adjective

Illustration of shark

Illustration of shark
  • 1 mako
  • 2 tiger
  • 3 thresher
  • 4 hammerhead
  • 5 great white


2 of 3

noun (2)

: a rapacious crafty person who takes advantage of others often through usury, extortion, or devious means
loan sharks
: one who excels greatly especially in a particular field


3 of 3


sharked; sharking; sharks

transitive verb

archaic : to gather hastily
archaic : to obtain by some irregular means

intransitive verb

archaic : to practice fraud or trickery
archaic : sneak

Did you know?

Where did jump the shark come from?

When something jumps the shark it undergoes a significant change for the worse and is on a new trajectory of unrecoverable decline. The happy days of its golden age are over.

The origin of the phrase jump the shark is tucked neatly in that previous sentence: it comes from a 1977 episode of the American TV series “Happy Days” (1974–1984) in which the program's most popular character, Fonzie, jumps over a shark while waterskiing in his trademark leather jacket. Some years later that episode came to be widely identified as marking the beginning of the iconic show's decline, and its plot device became a metaphor for similar transformations:

Nearly all TV shows ever produced have jumped the shark eventually. Such is the nature of television's creative conundrum.
— Monica Collins, Boston Herald, 9 Jan. 2000

Most TV series take three seasons to jump the shark, but in the theater it can happen in 20 minutes …
— Bob Verini, Daily Variety, 18 Sept. 2009

But in its headlong embrace of capitalism and corporate tie-ins, “Sex and the City” may have finally jumped the shark.
— Laura Compton, San Francisco Chronicle, 30 May 2010

The phrase is no longer limited to contexts involving entertainment; anything that undergoes a significant change for the worse that marks the start of a period of decline can be said to have "jumped the shark":

Not everyone agrees when Picasso's art jumped the shark.
— Jeffry Cudlin, Washington Post, 27 Feb. 2011

Silicon Valley has “jumped the shark” and lacks innovation, venture capitalist Peter Thiel says.
— Mike Murphy, MarketWatch, 1 Nov. 2018

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web
The big fish eat the little fish in this sea of cannibals, and Auburn’s only sin is being a greedy shark. Joseph Goodman |, al, 30 Sep. 2022 One person dresses up as the unfortunate surfer, one person's a lifeguard, and of course, your child is the cutest shark ever! Terri Robertson, Country Living, 18 Aug. 2022 Among its biggest hits was a game called Shark Attack, in which the player is a shark trying to fend off scuba divers who are out to kill it. New York Times, 29 June 2022 Sitting on top of that spike is a gummy shark to ward off anyone who might be inclined to steal a bite. Paul Stephen, San Antonio Express-News, 22 June 2022 The Monterey Fire Department conducted a drone search for the shark, but there have been no sightings, police said. Itzel Luna, Los Angeles Times, 22 June 2022 Rose is ready for her close-up — but so is a shark. Dan Snierson,, 14 June 2022 Not as sentimentally endearing but threatened and critically key to the health of oceans is the shark. Louise Schiavone, Forbes, 22 Apr. 2022 As the fish drew close to the boat, Cangianella knew what Atherton had might not be a shark after all. Ed Killer, USA TODAY, 11 Apr. 2022
Now in his 40s, Ketchum grew up in Mexico City and came late to shark science after a career as a dive master in La Paz. Erik Vance, Discover Magazine, 29 May 2013 Ulysse Nardin is no stranger to shark conservation. Roberta Naas, Forbes, 18 July 2022 See More

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

Word History


Noun (1)

Middle English

Noun (2)

probably modification of German Schurke scoundrel

First Known Use

Noun (1)

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

1599, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1602, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of shark was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near shark

Cite this Entry

“Shark.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
: any of numerous marine fishes that have rough grayish skin and a skeleton made of cartilage, that usually prey on other animals and are sometimes dangerous to people, and that include some caught for the oil in their livers or for their hide from which a leather is made
sharklike adjective


2 of 2 noun
: a sly greedy person who takes advantage of others
a loan shark
: a person who outdoes others especially in a certain area
a shark at arithmetic

More from Merriam-Webster on shark

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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