\ ˈshelf How to pronounce shelf (audio) \
plural shelves\ ˈshelvz How to pronounce shelves (audio) \

Definition of shelf

1a : a thin flat usually long and narrow piece of material (such as wood) fastened horizontally (as on a wall) at a distance from the floor to hold objects
b : one of several similar pieces in a closet, bookcase, or similar structure
c : the contents of a shelf the author of a shelf of best sellers
2 : something resembling a shelf in form or position: such as
a : a sandbank or ledge of rocks usually partially submerged
b : a flat projecting layer of rock
c : the submerged gradually sloping border of a continent or island : continental shelf
off the shelf
: available from stock : not made to order off the shelf equipment
on the shelf
: in a state of inactivity or uselessness

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Other Words from shelf

shelfful \ ˈshelf-​ˌfu̇l How to pronounce shelfful (audio) \ noun
shelflike \ ˈshelf-​ˌlīk How to pronounce shelflike (audio) \ adjective

Examples of shelf in a Sentence

Put the vase on the shelf. the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet Will you get that book down off the shelf? We don't have much shelf space.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The quakes threw items from shelves and caused fires and buckling at some homes. Richard K. De Atley, The Mercury News, "Emergency responders are sticking around in Ridgecrest," 7 July 2019 Inside convenience stores, aisles were flooded with broken liquor bottles and food that had fallen from the shelves. Nicole Chavez, CNN, "'No one wants to go inside': People flee their homes after 6.4 quake rattles Southern California," 4 July 2019 Since The Wedding Date first hit shelves almost a year and a half ago, Jasmine Guillory has become one of romance’s brightest new voices. David Canfield,, "20 new books to read in July," 1 July 2019 Although neither the books nor films seem to have held the lasting appeal of YA phenomena like Harry Potter, Collins will likely still find a significant fanbase when her yet untitled prequel novel hits shelves in May 2020. Richard Newby, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Hunger Games' and the Pitfalls of a Prequel," 22 June 2019 Plenty of great couch co-op games hit shelves each year. Robert Carnevale, WIRED, "Party Time! 12 Amazingly Addictive Couch Co-op Games," 22 June 2019 WinCo has removed all potentially affected products from store shelves., "WinCo Foods recalls frozen red raspberries for potential Norovirus," 17 June 2019 But more than a decade earlier, those very first iPods—the trailblazing ones—completely vanished from the shelves. Andrew Daniels, Popular Mechanics, "Would You Pay $20,000 for an Original iPod?," 9 May 2019 Since Gucci apologized and pulled the balaclava sweater from shelves in February, fans of the brand have been asking them to do more to make a change. Alyssa Hardy, Teen Vogue, "Gucci Launches Changemakers Program and Diversity Initiative," 18 Mar. 2019

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for shelf

Middle English, probably from Old English scylfe; akin to Old Norse hlīthskjalf Odin's seat

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Statistics for shelf

Last Updated

13 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for shelf

The first known use of shelf was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for shelf



English Language Learners Definition of shelf

: a flat board which is attached to a wall, frame, etc., and on which objects can be placed
geology : a flat area of rock, sand, etc., especially underwater


\ ˈshelf How to pronounce shelf (audio) \
plural shelves\ ˈshelvz \

Kids Definition of shelf

1 : a flat piece (as of wood or metal) set above a floor (as on a wall or in a bookcase) to hold things
2 : a flat area (as of rock)

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More from Merriam-Webster on shelf

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with shelf

Spanish Central: Translation of shelf

Nglish: Translation of shelf for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of shelf for Arabic Speakers

Comments on shelf

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to form ideas or theories about something

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