\ 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 Or that a scallop shell studded with diamonds, subtle and bold at the same time, would weave a magic spell? Lynn Yaeger, Vogue, 11 June 2021 Public records suggest Cascade Investments has bought its farmland through a web of at least 22 limited liability shell companies across the country. NBC News, 9 June 2021 This has an extremely soft 100% peach skin shell with 135GSM down alternative filling lulls you into restful sleep. Tim Kohut, BGR, 8 June 2021 In the past, Moore explained, the ways to alter room acoustics included installing moveable panels or putting a sound shell on stage that was massive and difficult to move. Ed Masley, The Arizona Republic, 8 June 2021 While the meat cooks, the marinade forms a hard shell around the bird that prevents any juices from escaping, steaming the chicken from the inside out and keeping it super moist. Ori Menashe, Robb Report, 7 June 2021 According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking, the egg white in a fresh egg has a relatively low pH level, and when boiled in water, the egg whites bond more strongly to the inner shell membrane than to itself. Sudiksha Kochi, USA TODAY, 3 June 2021 This two-slice retro toaster features six browning settings with cooking times ranging from 70 to 220 seconds, three functions (cancel, bagel, defrost), and anti-rust and anti-overheat shell and function. Daria Smith, Southern Living, 3 June 2021 The most notorious run of shell-company reverse mergers occurred between 2006 and 2012. New York Times, 2 June 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The newest source of cash for clean-energy firms: special-purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, shell companies that list on an exchange with the purpose of acquiring private firms to take them public. Scott Patterson, WSJ, 22 May 2021 Key to success was finding an area where there were 6 to 10 inch mullet jumping and swirling in water 2 to 3 feet deep on broken grass and shell bottom. Frank Sargeant, al, 9 May 2021 But when the good times roll, shell companies and strategies on napkins can find a ticker symbol in a New York minute. James Berman, Forbes, 6 May 2021 Remember: Special purpose acquisition companies — or shell companies that exist purely to take private entities public — have become all the rage on Wall Street. Julia Horowitz, CNN, 18 Mar. 2021 But the trail often leads to shell companies, networks used for money laundering or cryptocurrencies, which are difficult for governments to track. New York Times, 26 Mar. 2021 With multiple layers of trusts, shell companies, and anonymous bank accounts clouding up the picture, hiding funds is easy., 1 Apr. 2021 Responding officers did not find any suspects or shell casings. cleveland, 5 Mar. 2021 For instance, investors have plowed staggering amounts of money into SPACs — shell companies with no operating assets that exist to take private companies public. Matt Egan, CNN, 3 Mar. 2021

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

14 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Shell.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Jun. 2021.

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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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