\ˈshir \
sheared; sheared or shorn\ˈshȯrn \; shearing

Definition of shear 

(Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to cut off the hair from

b : to cut or clip (hair, wool, etc.) from someone or something also : to cut something from shear a lawn

c chiefly Scotland : to reap with a sickle

d : to cut or trim with shears or a similar instrument

2 : to cut with something sharp

3 : to deprive of something as if by cutting lives shorn of any hope— M. W. Browne

4a : to subject to a shear force

b : to cause (something, such as a rock mass) to move along the plane of contact

intransitive verb

1 : to cut through something with or as if with a sharp instrument

2 chiefly Scotland : to reap crops with a sickle

3 : to become divided under the action of a shear



Definition of shear (Entry 2 of 2)

1a(1) : a cutting implement similar or identical to a pair of scissors but typically larger usually used in plural

(2) : one blade of a pair of shears

b : any of various cutting tools or machines operating by the action of opposed cutting edges of metal usually used in plural

c(1) : something resembling a shear or a pair of shears

(2) : a hoisting apparatus consisting of two or sometimes more upright spars fastened together at their upper ends and having tackle for masting or dismasting ships or lifting heavy loads (such as guns) usually used in plural but singular or plural in construction

2 chiefly British : the action or process or an instance of shearing used in combination to indicate the approximate age of sheep in terms of shearings undergone

3a : internal force tangential to the section on which it acts

called also shearing force

b : an action or stress resulting from applied forces that causes or tends to cause two contiguous parts of a body to slide relatively to each other in a direction parallel to their plane of contact

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Other Words from shear


shearer noun

Synonyms for shear

Synonyms: Verb

cut, gash, incise, rip, slash, slice, slit

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Examples of shear in a Sentence


The farmers sheared the sheep. The farmers sheared the wool from the sheep.

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The plane had crashed near the southern tip of the island, its wings sheared off and the fuselage resting upside down. Matt Day, The Seattle Times, "“We were all screaming, ‘Oh my god’” : How the Horizon Air theft and crash unfolded," 12 Aug. 2018 In this case, one wing hit the ground; the other was sheared off by the force of the impact with the Pentagon's load-bearing columns, explains Sozen, who specializes in the behavior of concrete buildings. Popular Mechanics Editors, Popular Mechanics, "Debunking the Myths About the 9/11 Attack on the Pentagon," 10 Sep. 2018 The front end of the bus, which had 38 students and 7 adults on board, appeared to be crushed or ripped off, and it was sheared off from its undercarriage. Nicole Darrah, Fox News, "New Jersey school bus crash involving dump truck leaves at least 2 dead," 17 May 2018 Surveillance video shows the moment 950-tons of concrete and steel collapsed, crushing at least eight cars and shearing others in half. Manuel Bojorquez, CBS News, "Miami bridge collapse: 2 victims identified, crews trying to recover bodies," 16 Mar. 2018 But the process of obtaining the wool—factory farming and shearing sheep—can be inhumane. Emily Matchar, Smithsonian, "What Will It Take To Make Vegan Wool?," 29 June 2018 The accident left the school bus on its side, torn from its undercarriage and with its front end sheared off. Paul Berger, WSJ, "N.J. Authorities Probing Possible Illegal U-Turn in Fatal Bus Crash," 18 May 2018 But his profile is solemn: a sharp jawline, chin raised and jutted, tinted sunglasses that appear more fogged-over than tinted, hair sheared short, perhaps by an electric razor. New York Times, "The Artists Who Brought Asian-Americans Into the Annals of Contemporary Art," 12 Apr. 2018 One next-door neighbor’s shears clip-clip-clip through her bushes, while the other’s mower roars through his grass. Fluto Shinzawa,, "The soundtrack of the Tour de France," 29 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The inmates start with mannequins (which need to be signed out, along with tools like shears) and can later take on clients — other inmates and staff. Carlos Chavarría, Allure, "How Prison Salons Are Doing More Than Just Making Inmates Look Good," 18 July 2018 The squabs can be served whole or cut in half with kitchen shears; or, use a sharp knife to carve the meat away from the breast cage. Daniel Boulud, ELLE Decor, "Oven-Roasted Squab and Watercress Salad Recipe," 17 Aug. 2011 Fast forward to the present day, and the Fab Four’s signature style promises to reveal alpine cheekbones and razor-sharp jawlines with a quick flip of the shears. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "Hedi Slimane Just Served Up 6 Radical Haircuts Worth Stealing from His Male Cast at Céline," 29 Sep. 2018 You were supposed to feel the sudden wind-shear of hypocrisy. Lance Morrow, WSJ, "A Spectral Witness Materializes," 17 Sep. 2018 Using kitchen shears or a large knife, cut along one side of the backbone until the bird is split open. Georgeanne Brennan, House Beautiful, "Butterflied Turkey with Herb Glaze and Gravy Recipe," 25 Oct. 2010 Those wondering if the supermodel had picked up the shears soon got an answer via Instagram. Calin Van Paris, Vogue, "Irina Shayk Debuts a Bold New Bob for the DSquared2 Front Row," 18 June 2018 Punk Pixies Brushed up to match her full-bodied, dark brown brows, model Martine Dirkzwager Wu embraced the opportunity to go under the shears as Palau’s muse for this freshly shorn, strategically tousled crop. Vogue, "Dior Just Served Up 5 Striking Hair Ideas for the July Fourth Weekend," 2 July 2018 From trimming vegetables to cutting herbs or just opening packages, a handy pair of heavy duty, dishwasher- safe shears are unfailingly convenient. 2. Cathy Deimeke, USA TODAY, "Ask a Doc: What can I do to make healthy eating fun and easy for my kids?," 4 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'shear.' 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 shear


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


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

History and Etymology for shear


Middle English sheren, from Old English scieran; akin to Old Norse skera to cut, Latin curtus mutilated, curtailed, Greek keirein to cut, shear, Sanskrit kṛnāti he injures

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Statistics for shear

Last Updated

1 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for shear

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

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English Language Learners Definition of shear

: to cut the hair, wool, etc., off (an animal)

: to cut off (an animal's hair, wool, etc.)

: to cut off a person's hair


\ˈshir \
sheared; sheared or shorn\ˈshȯrn \; shearing

Kids Definition of shear

1 : to cut the hair or wool from : clip shear sheep

2 : to cut or clip (as hair or wool) from something

3 : to strip of as if by cutting The tyrants were shorn of their power.

4 : to cut or break sharply The sign was sheared off by a car.

Other Words from shear

shearer noun

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More from Merriam-Webster on shear

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for shear

Spanish Central: Translation of shear

Nglish: Translation of shear for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of shear for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about shear

Comments on shear

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


to move with a clumsy heavy tread

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