\ 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

Synonyms for shear

Synonyms: Verb

bob, clip, crop, cut, cut back, dock, lop (off), nip, pare, poll, prune, shave, snip, trim

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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 most dangerous thing would be if there is some major collision and pieces of the foam sheared off. The Economist, "The last of the great explorers," 6 Sep. 2019 Photographs from flights over Abaco show trees sheared of limbs and leaves and saltwater ponds covering swaths of land where homes once stood. New York Times, "‘A Disastrous Outcome’: In Bahamas, Hurricane Cripples Rescue Efforts," 3 Sep. 2019 The quakes caused serious cracks in some buildings, sheared bolts from support beams and damaged water pipes and electrical equipment. Washington Post, "Quake damage estimate tops $5B at California Navy base," 14 Aug. 2019 Sometimes that meant the boat suddenly had to retreat from the face of the glacier, while scientists crossed their fingers that the equipment wasn’t sheared off into the water. Jenny Howard, National Geographic, "Alaskan glaciers melting 100 times faster than previously thought," 25 July 2019 All water service has been temporarily shut off at the San Diego International Airport after a vehicle sheared off a nearby fire hydrant Saturday. Kristina Davis, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Water shut off to San Diego International Airport after car crash into hydrant," 7 Sep. 2019 Some 50,000 sheep were sheared annually at the station named after St. Mungo by its Scottish founders, and their hoofs stripped the top soil from the dry lake floor. David Maurice Smith, Smithsonian, "A 42,000-Year-Old Man Finally Goes Home," 23 Aug. 2019 The roof was sheared off of Lakeshore Drive Apartments on Galbraith Road. Jeff Suess,, "50 years ago, ‘forgotten’ tornado struck Galbraith and Reading," 8 Aug. 2019 Just one day after getting her hands dirty shearing sheep in rural Cumbria, England, Kate headed across town from her Kensington Palace home for the gala dinner at a London eatery., "Kate Middleton Recycles Off-the-Shoulder Gown (and Sports Sparkling Heels!) for Glam Night Out," 12 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Tornadoes thrive, in part, on strong vertical shear, which means a difference in horizontal winds' direction and speed at different heights. Jason Hanna, CNN, "Why tornadoes are among a hurricane's potent threats," 5 Sep. 2019 Each kit contains a professional tourniquet, gauze and dressing, nitrile gloves, shears and more. USA TODAY, "Rare elephant calf, two-headed rattlesnake, another quake off Oregon: News from around our 50 states," 6 Sep. 2019 But weather models show the Saharan air clearing and the shear slowing, opening a window of opportunity if an ambitious disturbance wants to become something more. Kimberly Miller,, "El Nino gone, dust cloud fading, hurricane season could pick up," 19 Aug. 2019 Recently, Jason Reyes, global trainer for Paul Mitchell, posted a clip of a rainbow-haired woman getting her strands cut with a pair of thinning shears and a razor, no less. Wendy Sy, Allure, "Hairstylist Explains Why Razors and Thinning Shears Are Their Tools of Choice," 22 Jan. 2018 Given the dearth of pluckers, cutters (shears which are used to cut roses, so cutters can be replaced) are used which impact the quality to some extent. Gurvinder Singh, Quartz India, "Science is rekindling the aroma that Darjeeling tea lost to climate change," 9 Aug. 2019 But everything changed in 2013, when hair legend Guido Palau chopped it all off, razoring it into a shaggy mullet that instantly transformed her from girl-next-store to downtown cool girl at the flash of his shears. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "Edie Campbell Just Turned the Skunky Two-Tone Dye Job Into a Thing Again," 21 Sep. 2018 To cut sticks, score with scissors, then snap off excess and trim any pointy ends with pruning shears. Donna Erickson, Twin Cities, "Donna Erickson: Weave yarn and nature finds on a stick loom," 2 Aug. 2019 Using kitchen shears, trim any hard veins off the edges and discard. Los Angeles Times, "Banana Leaf Grilled Fish With Habanero Beurre Blanc," 24 July 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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Statistics for shear

Last Updated

20 Oct 2019

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Time Traveler for shear

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

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More Definitions for shear



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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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

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