\ ˈshir How to pronounce shear (audio) \
sheared; sheared or shorn\ ˈshȯrn How to pronounce shorn (audio) \; 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

Examples of shear in a Sentence

Verb The farmers sheared the sheep. The farmers sheared the wool from the sheep.
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Cut the lawn at 4-inches and when the mower wheel drops into one of those little divots, the blades won’t shear off the grass at dirt level. Paul Cappiello, The Courier-Journal, "You're cutting the grass wrong. 3 steps to get it right from our garden columnist," 22 May 2020 Once the block was established, the split jet stream seemed to shear later weather systems apart. Paul Voosen, Science | AAAS, "Why does the weather stall? New theories explain enigmatic ‘blocks’ in the jet stream," 5 Mar. 2020 The material used in this device is also harvested by shearing it off the surface of bacteria in culture. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "Bio-electronic device can produce electricity using nothing but humidity," 17 Feb. 2020 The woman’s car continued toward the pole and struck it, shearing the pole in half. cleveland, "Woman calls police because another driver was “rude” to her at stoplight: Cleveland Heights police blotter," 13 Mar. 2020 One warm February afternoon in his workshop, Rocha carefully eased a heavy stack of old skateboards into the buzzing blade of his bandsaw, shearing a thin slice off of the edge that tumbled to the floor. Gregory Thomas, San Francisco Chronicle, "Skate craft," 11 Mar. 2020 Banner's Tesla went under Wood's trailer, shearing off the roof and killing Banner. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "“I was just shaking”—new documents reveal details of fatal Tesla crash," 15 Feb. 2020 Biggers is a tattooed, 36-year-old farmer in North Carolina who brews her own beer and shears her own sheep. Andrew Zaleski, Popular Mechanics, "Expert Disaster Preppers Explain How to Ride Out the Coronavirus Pandemic," 26 Mar. 2020 When the asteroid hit about 66 million years ago, many of these branches were sheared off. Cara Giaimo, New York Times, "What to Name the Oldest Modern Bird Fossil? Wonderchicken," 18 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Pruning shears: Fiskars has steel bypass pruning shears designed to cut stems and light branches. oregonlive, "Suit up for World Naked Gardening Day: A holster to hold pruners," 1 May 2020 The slowing waves gave these features their formal name: large low-shear-velocity provinces, or LLSVPs — an unmagical abbreviation that may have contributed to the topic’s low profile. Quanta Magazine, "Continents of the Underworld Come Into Focus," 7 Jan. 2020 Italians have been serving shears with big pies forever. Htv National Desk, Houston Chronicle, "Have you been cutting pizza wrong your entire life? Some chefs say yes.," 19 July 2019 The archaeologist Daniel Potts calculates that in a three‐month period, 203,310 sheep were shorn in Girsu alone, a number made even more impressive since it was achieved before the invention of sheep shears. Cody Cassidy, Time, "Who Discovered Soap? What to Know About the Origins of the Life-Saving Substance," 5 May 2020 One Saturday earlier this month, my mom grabbed a pair of dull shears, a comb, and a spray bottle; sat my brother in a wicker chair on our back porch; and FaceTimed her stylist, Isabelle Goetz. Jacob Stern, The Atlantic, "The Golden Age of the Online Tutorial," 24 Apr. 2020 In addition to two cedar planter boxes, this set also comes with a tote bag full of gardening supplies, including a trowel shovel, rake hoe, weeder, transplanter, cultivator, pruning shears, watering spray bottle, and gloves. Madeline Diamond, Travel + Leisure, "How to Start a Vegetable Garden at Home, Just in Time for Earth Day," 21 Apr. 2020 These budget-friendly, simple shears get the job done. Popular Science, "Kitchen shears for trimming herbs and spatchcocking chicken," 10 Jan. 2020 Today, Pink became the latest star to pick up the shears, revealing a brand new buzzcut on Instagram. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "Pink’s Radical New Haircut Is a Lesson in Letting Go," 6 Dec. 2019

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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Time Traveler for shear

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for shear

Last Updated

1 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Shear.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for shear


How to pronounce shear (audio)

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 How to pronounce shear (audio) \
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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Comments on shear

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