\ 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 accident sheared off the top above the passenger compartment. Alex Johnson, NBC News, "Kevin Hart expected to make full recovery as photo shows mangling of car," 3 Sep. 2019 The bathroom floor was only chipped, but a piece the size of a baby’s fist sheared off the stone, destroying its strange symmetry. Louise Erdrich, The New Yorker, "The Stone," 2 Sep. 2019 Sometimes, the air can dry out in the afternoon, or the hit-or-miss nature of summer storms bypasses your backyard, or there’s not enough shear in place to sustain those storms. Chris Bianchi, The Denver Post, "When you see this number, it probably means storms are on the way," 3 Aug. 2019 Kate didn't hesitate to don an outdoorsy jacket, jeans, and Chloé boots to meet locals in Keswick—or to shear a sheep at a traditional mountainside farm. Chloe Foussianes, Town & Country, "Kate Middleton Wears a Lovely Elie Saab Dress to the First Day of Royal Ascot," 18 June 2019 Who knew a future British king and queen might need to shear sheep? Maria Puente, USA TODAY, "Will & Kate visit farm country, try their hands at shearing squirming sheep," 11 June 2019 Every so often, a wool sheep is found that hasn’t been sheared for years, emerging from a cave or a remote mountain pass looking like a bulbous duster on spindly legs. Sarah Nassauer, WSJ, "Fiber Optics: Wool Lovers Battle Animal-Rights Crowd Over Sheep Shearing," 7 Jan. 2019 Trees also sheared and pruned to have them branch quicker and achieve the full appearance commonly seen in Christmas trees. Alec Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Noffke Tree Farm celebrates 65 years in the Christmas tree business," 14 Dec. 2017 Zones: 6 to 8 Rounded or Sphere-Shaped Boxwoods Winter Gem (Buxus microphylla japonica 'Winter Gem') This boxwood makes a nice hedge and takes shearing well. Arricca Sansone, Country Living, "20 Best Boxwood Shrubs to Plant in Your Garden," 14 Feb. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 Steel shears designed to snip cars into confetti, ripper claw attachments capable of dismantling entire buildings, and a hydraulic concrete crusher attachment with jaws wide enough for a grown man to lie down in between that weighed nearly 10 tons. Andrew Curry, WIRED, "One Boy’s Dream Vacation to See Giant Construction Equipment," 26 June 2019 Aghazadeh, behaving erratically, approached police with a knife in one hand and a pair of scissors or shears in the other. Gary Klien, The Mercury News, "Video released in Marin police shooting of Bay Area bodybuilder," 20 June 2019 If one sitter has shears in his hand and another holds an antique marble sculpture, these objects (though not the very ones in the paintings) are in the show. Sanford Schwartz, The New York Review of Books, "The Pure Portraitist," 9 May 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

8 Sep 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

Comments on shear

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readily or continually undergoing change

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