\ 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 Around the running ambush scene, which stretched for miles, investigators found over 200 spent shell casings, mostly from assault rifles. Author: Mary Beth Sheridan, Anchorage Daily News, "At least 9 members of Mormon family with US citizenship brutally killed in northern Mexico," 5 Nov. 2019 Inside, investigators recovered shell casings indicating that Mr. Goode had fired 15 rounds from a 9-millimeter handgun, the police official said. New York Times, "Brooklyn Shooting: Poker Player Opened Fire and Was Killed by Bouncer," 13 Oct. 2019 These are two artists with the ability to leave listeners shell-shocked by their intellect—and that might be exactly what happened. Sophie Kemp, Vogue, "A Nimble, Disorienting Conversation: Sally Rooney and Ben Lerner Talk The Topeka School," 4 Oct. 2019 The Wednesday news release from the sheriff’s office noted that .40-caliber shell casings found at the scene were tested and eventually led them to Walker. Mary Grace Keller,, "Baltimore man charged with attempted murder in targeted workplace shooting in Eldersburg, sheriff says," 2 Oct. 2019 Joining a team already more than a week into training camp, Lukas was shell-shocked, Trinity Valley defensive coordinator Will Reed said. Greg Luca,, "After troubled past, Incarnate Word’s Termin finds faith, maturity through marriage," 25 Sep. 2019 Police checked the area where the vehicle was parked but found no shell casings. Bob Sandrick, cleveland, "Security guards hear gunshots outside business: Brook Park Police Blotter," 20 Sep. 2019 The Broncos have a young locker room that may have been shell-shocked by the Week 1 loss in Oakland. Mark Kiszla, The Denver Post, "Kiszla vs. O’Halloran: Was Broncos’ 2-point try gutsy call or act of desperation?," 16 Sep. 2019 And since starchiness often translates into crispiness, floury potatoes are good candidates for roasting and frying: Use them in French fries, latkes, hash browns, or rosti for a delightfully crispy shell and creamy insides. Sarah Jampel, Bon Appétit, "WTF Is a "Waxy" Potato?," 12 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Turkish forces had shelled Kobani in recent days as part of the offensive but had not advanced ground troops on it. Time, "Syrian Forces Enter a Key Border Town, Thwarting Turkish Plans," 17 Oct. 2019 Turkish forces had shelled Kobani in recent days as part of the offensive but had not advanced ground troops on it. Elena Becatoros And Bassem Mroue,, "Syrian forces enter key border town of Kobani, blocking Turkish plans to establish a ‘safe zone’," 16 Oct. 2019 In fact, the US is withdrawing troops from the region—some of whom were shelled by Turkish forces this week, apparently by mistake. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "“You have sold us”: Kurdish leader in Syria accuses US of abandoning allies," 12 Oct. 2019 The city also was heavily shelled by Turkish forces. Sarah El Deeb, The Denver Post, "Turkish forces push deeper into Syria amid intense fighting," 11 Oct. 2019 All-Star setup man Ryan Pressly struggled, $140 million starter Patrick Corbin was shelled in a different role. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Bullpens? More like blowpens as playoff relievers get rocked," 7 Oct. 2019 Beyond that loomed Nasah Mountain, a peak topped with a fortress-like crag from which the rebels can shell across the area. Washington Post, "Militiamen dig in at a front line of Yemen’s deadlocked war," 9 Aug. 2019 In 1942, Japanese submarines shelled an oil field outside Santa Barbara, near the 2,700-square-mile Los Padres National Forest. Lyndsie Bourgon, Smithsonian, "A Brief History of Smokey Bear, the Forest Service’s Legendary Mascot," 10 July 2019 Those transfers include $20 million from a Purdue parent company to former board member Mortimer D.A. Sackler, who then redirected the money to shell companies that own homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons, prosecutors said. Fox News, "Purdue Pharma's Sackler family used hidden accounts to transfer $1B: court docs," 14 Sep. 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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Statistics for shell

Last Updated

13 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for shell

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

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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

Comments on shell

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


not being in agreement or harmony

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