\ 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)

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.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Wounded and shell-shocked defenders, joined by an inevitable contingent of malingerers, hide out in the safe areas, eroding unit cohesion. Craig Hooper, Forbes, 16 May 2022 The Anti-Money Laundering Act, passed in early 2021, calls for the Treasury to create a corporate-ownership registry that lawmakers hope will limit the use of anonymous shell companies. Dylan Tokar, WSJ, 13 May 2022 The 459-footer, known as Scheherazade, has potential ties to President Vladimir Putin, but the real ownership appears to be shrouded by various shell companies., Robb Report, 25 Mar. 2022 Congress voted to give the Treasury Department the authority to crack open shell companies but left that power unfunded for years. New York Times, 16 Mar. 2022 Russians have bought countless hugely expensive houses across London from Belgravia to Highgate: truly countless, since feeble English laws allow property to be owned anonymously by shell companies, and nobody can really say who owns what. Geoffrey Wheatcroft, The New Republic, 13 Mar. 2022 In practice, this means the country’s wealthiest citizens often store their investments abroad, through real estate, shell companies, and complex corporate structures that hide their names. Courtney Vinopal, Quartz, 3 Mar. 2022 In 2020, Congress passed legislation to empower the Treasury Department to stop tax evaders, kleptocrats, terrorists and other criminals from using anonymous shell companies to hide and launder assets, including those in real estate. NBC News, 2 Mar. 2022 In the United States, the Treasury Department is still working to implement a law passed by Congress in December 2020 to require anonymous shell companies to disclose their true owners to the government. Washington Post, 27 Feb. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Russian forces continued to shell cities in Donbas and carried out a missile strike in western Ukraine. WSJ, 17 May 2022 The Kremlin continued to shell Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant Tuesday even as some civilians were evacuated, Ukrainian officials said. Washington Post, 3 May 2022 As many as 50 rounds were fired inside the property, and shell casings from rifles and pistols were found at the scene, police said. Susan Miller, USA TODAY, 17 Apr. 2022 Authorities say ballistics tests later matched the gun found in Lopez's house to shell casings found at the murder scene. CBS News, 9 Apr. 2022 Once the shrimp are cool, shell the shrimp and refrigerate to further cool them. San Diego Union-Tribune, 27 Apr. 2022 Russian forces continued to shell the steelworks Thursday, Palamar said. Washington Post, 21 Apr. 2022 Russian forces in the northeast also continued to shell Kharkiv, and in the southeast sought to seize the cities of Popasna and Rubizhne as well as Mariupol, the Ukrainian military said. Yuras Karmanau,, 1 Apr. 2022 Russian forces continued to shell major Ukrainian cities but have yet to make significant breakthroughs in the capital of Kyiv, according to the British defense ministry. NBC News, 9 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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

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

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Last Updated

21 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Shell.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for shell


\ 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.

More from Merriam-Webster on shell

Nglish: Translation of shell for Spanish Speakers

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


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