shel·​lac | \shə-ˈlak \

Definition of shellac 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : purified lac usually prepared in thin orange or yellow flakes by heating and filtering and often bleached white

2 : a preparation of lac dissolved usually in alcohol and used chiefly as a wood filler and finish

3a : a composition containing shellac formerly used for making phonograph records

b : an old 78 rpm phonograph record


shellacked; shellacking

Definition of shellac (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to coat or otherwise treat with shellac or a shellac varnish

2 : to defeat decisively

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Examples of shellac in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Pro tip: When playing football, use shellac nail polish. Jayda Evans, The Seattle Times, "A battle for respect, then in the trenches: For Newport’s Jenna Martz, football is feminism," 26 Oct. 2018 The process was a simple two steps: First came a thick, shellac-like coat of MAC clear Lipglass. Laura Regensdorf, Vogue, "These Marbleized Lips at Eckhaus Latta Are About to Become an Art-Punk Beauty Obsession," 8 Sep. 2018 Nearly all the best exponents of the Greek Epirotic music, on shellac or in the flesh, are not considered Greek Epirotes by the Greek Epirotes themselves. Evan Eisenberg, WSJ, "‘Lament From Epirus’ Review: Ode on a Grecian Yearn," 24 May 2018 Block and Philpot streets were home to the Lacy Foundry, which made street lamp poles and manhole covers, and to other plants that turned out paint and shellac. Jacques Kelly,, "Jacques Kelly: Bridging to past with an ambitious future at Harbor Point," 7 Apr. 2018 But while shellac calls to mind the unglamorous domain of home improvement, lacquer was traditionally a means to create highly detailed works. Lacquer originated in Asia, and many early Indian and Chinese examples are still in existence today. Madeleine Luckel, Vogue, "You Can Now See Some of Marie Antoinette’s Most Cherished (and Tiny) Possessions," 20 Jan. 2018 In the official paperwork, the grants looked like the kind of research efforts the government might be funding; altruism was slapped on like a coat of shellac. Jim Dwyer, New York Times, "For Sheldon Silver, Three Judges Overturn 12 Jurors," 13 July 2017 Nguyen said on Facebook that Stefani received a manicure and pedicure, choosing a neon orange shellac. Ajc Homepage, ajc, "Gwen Stefani gets mani-pedi at Oklahoma mall nail salon," 15 July 2017 It was made of shellac, which came from a bug resin. Michael Tomasky, The Atlantic, "How the Hippies Hijacked Vinyl," 31 May 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Lou Barletta, who has built a career on immigration hawkery, got shellacked in Pennsylvania. Dara Lind, Vox, "Trumpism doesn’t win majorities. And Trump doesn’t care.," 7 Nov. 2018 Clinton got shellacked, losing the House for the Democrats for the first time since Harry Truman was in office. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "A quick game of quarters," 27 July 2018 What about someone who retired in 2000 and began withdrawing capital after the market got shellacked? Barry Ritholtz,, "Ranking the factors that help or hurt your investment returns," 14 June 2018 Despite being shellacked last week by Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, de León managed to hang on to second place and a spot on the November ballot. John Wildermuth, San Francisco Chronicle, "Bad news comes in bunches for Kevin de León: Key lawmaker backs Feinstein," 12 June 2018 Not the kind with bespoke suits and parted, shellacked hair; the kind with his sleeves rolled up, and a pair of beat-up beige sneakers on his feet. Issie Lapowsky, WIRED, "Tusks, Horns, and Claws: The Fight to Dismantle the Facebook Animal Parts Bazaar," 5 June 2018 Edmonton also handed the Golden Knights their worst loss of the season, an 8-2 shellacking on Nov. 14. USA TODAY, "Nurse scores in OT to lift Oilers over Golden Knights 3-2," 14 Jan. 2018 In Bosworth and Chopra’s case, their hairlines were shellacked against their foreheads in a semi-bang resembling a wooden or ceramic shrine of Mary. Melissa Magsaysay,, "At the Met Gala, stars show off their saintly side with classic looks. Here are 6 major beauty trends," 8 May 2018 Even in a straightforward noodle stir-fry called japchae, the chicken was shellacked with sugar. Mike Sutter, San Antonio Express-News, "Review: At Ilsong Garden in Castle Hills, it’s best days are over," 3 May 2018

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


1704, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1876, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for shellac


shell entry 1 + lac

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Learn More about shellac

Dictionary Entries near shellac






shellac wax


Statistics for shellac

Last Updated

15 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for shellac

The first known use of shellac was in 1704

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More Definitions for shellac



English Language Learners Definition of shellac

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a clear liquid that dries into a hard coating and that is put on a surface to protect it



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

: to coat (something) with shellac

: to defeat (a person or team) easily and completely


shel·​lac | \shə-ˈlak \

Kids Definition of shellac

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a varnish made from a material that is given off by an insect and that is dissolved usually in alcohol


shellacked; shellacking

Kids Definition of shellac (Entry 2 of 2)

: to coat with shellac

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More from Merriam-Webster on shellac

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with shellac

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for shellac

Spanish Central: Translation of shellac

Nglish: Translation of shellac for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about shellac

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