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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from shelf

shelfful \ ˈshelf-​ˌfu̇l How to pronounce shelf (audio) \ noun
shelflike \ ˈshelf-​ˌlīk How to pronounce shelf (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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Attractive, compact design minimizes shelf space, improves cooling, and extends product life while looking great in any home or office. Maren Estrada, BGR, "Meet the $59 box on Amazon that’ll make your cable company so angry," 14 Apr. 2021 The plan to simultaneously introduce their hard seltzer alongside their beer should allow Two Lane the opportunity to secure shelf space in retail and gain inroads in the on-premise markets. Hudson Lindenberger, Forbes, "Two Lane Beer From Luke Bryan Relaunches With Constellation Brands," 7 Apr. 2021 It’s the perfect way to try out a new mask without committing to a big jar of the product taking up valuable shelf space in my shower. Samantha Driscoll, Better Homes & Gardens, "The Most Hydrating Hair Masks to Nourish Your Dry, Damaged Strands," 31 Mar. 2021 Companies are asked to conduct an internal audit of their current spending power and contracts allocated to Black businesses, along with committing shelf space. CBS News, "Meet the woman on a mission to have retailers commit 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned brands," 6 Mar. 2021 Plus, the flowers are arranged in a curved glass vase that can be used for future bouquets or as shelf decor. Bridget Degnan, Better Homes & Gardens, "10 Easter Flower Arrangements to Elevate Your Table Setting—Starting at $26," 31 Mar. 2021 Keep your precious vinyls organized with this convenient record storage shelf. Kiana Murden, CNN Underscored, "Everything you need to buy from Urban Outfitters’ home section right now," 30 Mar. 2021 That injury sent him back to the shelf for 14 more games. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, "Spurs' Derrick White sinks teeth into defensive role," 28 Mar. 2021 Couples aren’t just looking for attractive objet to place on the bar shelf and dining room buffet; there is also a focus on self-care and a balanced lifestyle. Stephanie Cain, Fortune, "During COVID, wedding registries favor home goods rather than the previously popular experiences," 28 Mar. 2021

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about shelf

Time Traveler for shelf

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for shelf

Last Updated

16 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Shelf.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Apr. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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)

More from Merriam-Webster on shelf

Nglish: Translation of shelf for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of shelf for Arabic Speakers

Comments on shelf

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Flower Edition

True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!