\ ˈshel How to pronounce shell (audio) \
plural shells

Definition of shell

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a hard rigid usually largely calcareous covering or support of an animal
b : the hard or tough often thin outer covering of an egg (as of a bird or reptile) — see egg illustration
2 : the covering or outside part of a fruit or seed especially when hard or fibrous
3 : shell material (as of mollusks or turtles) or their substance
4 : something that resembles a shell: such as
a : a framework or exterior structure especially : a building with an unfinished interior
b(1) : an external case or outside covering the shell of a ship
(2) : a thin usually spherical layer or surface enclosing a space or surrounding an object an expanding shell of gas around a neutron star
c : a casing without substance mere effigies and shells of men— Thomas Carlyle
d : an edible outer layer of usually baked or fried pastry dough or bread for holding a filling a pastry shell a taco salad in a tortilla shell
f : a small beer glass
g : an unlined article of outerwear
5 : a shell-bearing mollusk
6 : an impersonal attitude or manner that conceals the presence or absence of feeling he retreated into his shell
7 : a narrow light racing boat propelled by one or more persons pulling oars or sculls
8 : any of the regions occupied by the orbits of a group of electrons of approximately equal energy surrounding the nucleus of an atom
9a : a projectile for cannon containing an explosive bursting charge
b : a case (as of metal, paper, or plastic) that holds the charge of powder and shot or bullet used with breech-loading small arms a shotgun shell — compare cartridge
10 : a plain usually sleeveless blouse or sweater
11 : a company or corporation that exists without assets or independent operations as a legal entity through which another company or corporation can conduct various dealings


shelled; shelling; shells

Definition of shell (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to take out of a natural enclosing cover (such as a shell, husk, pod, or capsule) shell peanuts
b : to separate the kernels of (corn, wheat, oats, etc.) from the cob, ear, or husk
2 : to throw shells at, upon, or into : bombard
3 : to score heavily against (someone, such as an opposing pitcher in baseball)

intransitive verb

1 : to fall or scale off in thin pieces
2 : to cast the shell or exterior covering : fall out of the pod or husk nuts which shell in falling
3 : to gather shells (as from a beach)

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Other Words from shell


shell adjective

Examples of shell in a Sentence

Noun the shell of a crab We collected shells at the beach. We're going to have stuffed shells for dinner. Verb They shelled the enemy troops. The town was shelled during the battle.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Pour the Grapefruit Curd Filling into the prebaked tart shell. Kristen Massad, Dallas News, "Celebrate Texas grapefruit season with this refreshing tart in an almond shortbread crust," 3 Feb. 2020 To germinate the seed, use a nail clipper or emery board and break through the outer, M&M-like shell to allow water to seep in. Jeff Lowenfels, Anchorage Daily News, "This is the year to try starting your sweet peas in February," 30 Jan. 2020 The action sends pressure waves through the liquid in the cochlea, the snail shell of the inner ear. Popular Science, "Hidden hearing loss is hitting people of all ages. Neuroscientists are still debating why.," 21 Jan. 2020 But nearly a quarter of the 171 shells at Moscerini looked surprisingly pristine, aside from the changes made by Neanderthals. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Neanderthals may have been shallow free divers, suggests a new study," 19 Jan. 2020 The ocean was never that acidic, however, so the plankton shells would have dissolved much slower, and there would have been no fizz. National Geographic, "How the dinosaur-killing asteroid primed Earth for modern life," 16 Jan. 2020 The shells were dated to between 90,000 to 100,000 years ago. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "Neanderthals combed beaches and went diving for shells to use as tools, study says," 15 Jan. 2020 Grading is based on standards of appearance, such as the conditions of the white or yolk and the cleanliness and soundness of the shell. Zee Krstic, Good Housekeeping, "5 Ways Eggs Supercharge Your Health Through Your Diet," 9 Jan. 2020 My daughter’s friend was in the Jamia library when the tear gas shell was thrown inside. Manavi Kapur, Quartz India, "At a women-led protest site in India, Muslims navigate identity, hope, and despair," 2 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Turkish officials initially said the deaths — of five Turkish soldiers and three Turkish civilian personnel — were caused by shelling. Washington Post, "Rare and deadly clashes between Syria and Turkey highlight tensions in rebel-held Syrian province," 3 Feb. 2020 Iran had already initiated a state of war with the United States by shooting down U.S. drones, threatening U.S. naval vessels, and shelling a U.S. base resulting in U.S. military and civilian casualties. John Yoo, National Review, "Lessons from the United States’ Showdown with the Barbary Pirates," 15 Jan. 2020 Employee cracked a raw shelled egg with gloved hands then handled a clean plate and kitchen utensils without washing hands between tasks. Ebony Day, azcentral, "Sliders prepared with bare hands among violations in Phoenix-area restaurant inspections," 25 Dec. 2019 LiDAR surveys reveal just how much of the landscape in Western Europe is still marked by zig-zag trenches, shelling craters, and other remnants that may not be obvious on the ground. National Geographic, "THE BEST OF NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX," 23 Dec. 2019 Residents fled the neighborhood as the two sides shelled each other in a city that has long been safe from the broader war., "Afghan warlord escapes arrest as troops turn city into war zone - The Boston Globe," 17 Dec. 2019 Despite a death toll that climbs by the week, with nightly shelling near civilian areas and the persistent threat of sniper fire, the only active war in Europe seldom tops the evening news in Paris, Berlin or London. Simon Shuster/kyiv, Time, ""I’m Not Afraid of the Impeachment Questions": How Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Is Navigating His Role in the World's Biggest Political Drama," 5 Dec. 2019 Dispatch got a call for a second vehicle in the area that was shelled by the trio. Erik S. Hanley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Three teens were cited for egging cars in Cudahy — and they had five dozen more eggs in their car," 31 Dec. 2019 Khalil said Turkey continues to violate the cease-fire, accusing its troops of shelling a village at dawn and seeking to carry out military operations. Lolita C. Baldor, The Denver Post, "Departing U.S. troops pelted with potatoes by residents of northeast Syria city," 21 Oct. 2019

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


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1562, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for shell


Middle English, from Old English sciell; akin to Old English scealu shell, Old Norse skel, Lithuanian skelti to split, Greek skallein to hoe

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Time Traveler for shell

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for shell

Last Updated

6 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Shell.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for shell


How to pronounce shell (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of shell

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the hard outer covering of an animal, insect, etc., that protects it
: the hard outer covering of an egg
: the hard outer covering of a nut, fruit, or seed



English Language Learners Definition of shell (Entry 2 of 2)

: to remove the shell or outer covering of (something)
: to shoot shells at (someone or something) using large guns
US, informal : to score heavily against (a pitcher) in baseball


\ ˈshel How to pronounce shell (audio) \

Kids Definition of shell

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a stiff hard covering of an animal (as a turtle, oyster, or crab)
2 : the tough outer covering of an egg
3 : the outer covering of a nut, fruit, or seed especially when hard or tough walnut shells
4 : something like a shell (as in shape, function, or material) a pastry shell
5 : a narrow light racing boat rowed by one or more persons
6 : a metal or paper case holding the explosive charge and the shot or object to be fired from a gun or cannon

Other Words from shell

shelled \ ˈsheld \ adjective soft-shelled crabs


shelled; shelling

Kids Definition of shell (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to remove the shell or outer covering of shell nuts
2 : to remove the kernels of grain from (as a cob of corn)
3 : to shoot shells at or upon They shelled the enemy troops.

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More from Merriam-Webster on shell

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for shell

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with shell

Spanish Central: Translation of shell

Nglish: Translation of shell for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of shell for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about shell

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