\ 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 This is the same material that gives a clam’s shell—as well as your own bones and teeth—their strength. Matt Simon, Wired, "The Mantis Shrimp Inspires a New Material—Made by Bacteria," 22 Feb. 2021 The back shell and parachute separate after the heat shield is discarded -- that will happen when the spacecraft is 1.3 miles above the Martian surface. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "Perseverance rover is coming in for a Mars landing today," 18 Feb. 2021 Top your layering system off with a breathable, waterproof shell to keep out the wind and rain. Field & Stream, "Women’s Long Underwear for Winter Warmth," 18 Feb. 2021 According to the zoo, about one in every 2 million lobsters has a blue shell, the result of a genetic anomaly. John Kuntz, cleveland, "Rare blue American lobster makes public debut at Akron Zoo (photos)," 13 Feb. 2021 The exterior shell of the 75,000-square-foot building at 8155 NE Central Ave. John Ewoldt, Star Tribune, "Hy-Vee adding two full-service, Twin Cities stores this year," 2 Feb. 2021 Warm Removable Hood Sometimes called a components jacket, a 3-in-1 parka is made up of two main parts: an outer shell, typically synthetic, that may or may not be insulated, and a liner insulated with synthetic or down filling. Outdoor Life, "Best Men’s Parka: Winter Outdoor Apparel for Braving the Elements," 26 Jan. 2021 Per @styleforkkw, Kim wore a custom Schiaparelli look, consisting of a forest green, hard-shell, corset top, and a velvet wrap skirt featuring a dramatic leg slit. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Kardashian-Jenner Clan's Christmas Party Gowns Will Make Your Jaw Drop," 26 Dec. 2020 The defense a shell of itself, punctuated by an assortment of injuries. Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Ravaged Pittsburgh Steelers are not built to rebound from this late-season collapse," 22 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The report points out that the mercenaries had offices, bank accounts and shell companies in the Emirates. New York Times, "Erik Prince, Trump Ally, Violated Libya Arms Embargo, U.N. Report Says," 19 Feb. 2021 According to Moira Mcdonald of the Coalition to Restore Urban Waters, shell dredging severely damaged the bottom of the lake, smothering plankton, the tiny organisms on which seafood feed and destroying the grass beds. John Pope,, "Connie Glockner, fisher who fought to cleanse Lake Pontchartrain, dies at 75," 12 Jan. 2021 In the pass game, Clemson likes to keep things just as simple, based on the coverage shell the defense shows. cleveland, "Can Ohio State football find an answer to Clemson’s pressure offense after its 2019 experience? Film Analysis," 30 Dec. 2020 Officers responded to find holes in the door to a home on Clifton Prado and shell casings across the street. Bruce Geiselman, cleveland, "Police investigate car theft: Lakewood Police Blotter," 26 Dec. 2020 Mossack Fonseca denied any wrongdoing after the story broke, but the leaks helped explain how the world's 1% can use front or shell companies to move money internationally. Joshua Berlinger, CNN, "The Wan Chai connection: The Washington-accused drug lords, gun runners and dictators' financiers tied to one Hong Kong district," 10 Dec. 2020 Despite that, shell casings from a weapon were reportedly discovered near the bodies. Zachary Halaschak, Washington Examiner, "Foul play suspected after bodies of soldier and veteran discovered at Fort Bragg," 5 Dec. 2020 The federal government has already staged several air strikes against Mekelle, and military spokesman Colonel Dejene Tsegaye has said tanks will be used to surround and shell the city unless the TPLF capitulates., "UN Fears Potential of Civilian Casualties in Ethiopia," 25 Nov. 2020 Four years ago, the themes were clear: curb immigration, make better trade deals, shell the Islamic State. Isaac Schorr, National Review, "Disciplined Campaigns Win Elections," 12 Nov. 2020

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

26 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Shell.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
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More Definitions for shell



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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Comments on shell

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