\ 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


the shell of a crab We collected shells at the beach. We're going to have stuffed shells for dinner.


They shelled the enemy troops. The town was shelled during the battle.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Under Worley and Joe Reed’s paranoid, dysfunctional leadership, the once mighty ADP is now an upside-down turtle shell of itself. J.d. Crowe |, al, "Flailing away like an upside-down Alabama Democratic Party," 15 Sep. 2019 To the untrained eye, one bucket of beach sand looks much like another but mixed into the multitude of microscopic minerals are carbonate chemicals left behind from the shells of long-dead sea creatures such as molluscs. The Economist, "The sound of sand reveals its source," 14 Sep. 2019 The scientists at Tokyo Tech want to do something similar with valence electrons, which reside on the outer shell of an atom and are responsible for each atom's chemical properties. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "A Periodic Table, but for Molecules," 10 Sep. 2019 One of baseball’s best outfields is a shell of its former self. John Shipley, Twin Cities, "With Max Kepler out, Twins outfield in shambles," 9 Sep. 2019 Florida State, which at one time won or shared nine consecutive ACC titles, continues to be a mere shell of its former shelf. Scott Keepfer, USA TODAY, "ACC power rankings: Clemson remains No. 1, but there is new No. 2 after Week 2 games," 9 Sep. 2019 By 1874, the company was a shell of its former shelf and was dissolved. Erin Blakemore, National Geographic, "How the East India Company became the world’s most powerful business," 6 Sep. 2019 Last time Leach faced Chip Kelly, in 2012, his roster was less than a shell of its current self. Jon Wilner, The Denver Post, "Pac-12 football preview: Road schedule, new quarterback pose challenges for Washington State," 27 Aug. 2019 The rally is scheduled for Sept. 14 at Orlando’s Lake Eloa Park, just a five-minute drive from where the shell of the former nightclub still stands. NBC News, "Pulse shooting survivors organize ex-gay 'Freedom March' in Orlando," 20 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Ingredients 2 cups raw, shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas) 2 tablespoons coconut aminos 2 1/2 teaspoons curry powder Fine salt to taste Directions Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Susan Clotfelter, The Know, "Bored with raisins? Try these 5 “fancy” trail mix recipes," 27 Aug. 2019 Cool, then blend in a food processor with ¼ cup shelled, toasted pumpkin seeds or pepitas. Cirrus Wood, The Mercury News, "Avocados too expensive? Make mock-amole," 11 Aug. 2019 Yep, that tender little zucchini is a fruit, and so is the crisp cucumber, green bean pod, green pepper, ear of sweet corn, flat snow pea pod, fat snap pea pod or pod of tender shelling peas. Pam Peirce,, "It’s time for midsummer harvesting: Use it or lose it," 2 Aug. 2019 In other fighting, government forces shelled a bakery, killing at least four people, including children, in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province, the Observatory said. Sarah El Deeb, The Seattle Times, "Pressure builds to get civilians out of last IS-held enclave," 20 Feb. 2019 After the long stalks of Flint corn are shelled, Whitley pours 100 to 150 pound of kernels into the hopper and the grinding begins. Loren King,, "At Gray’s Grist Mill, they’re feeding tradition," 10 July 2019 This time, another Muslim librarian rescued the haggadah as the museum was being shelled. David Degner, Smithsonian, "Two Tour Guides—One Israeli, One Palestinian—Offer a New Way to See the Holy Land," 9 July 2019 The right-hander entered the series on an impressive five-game run, posting a 2.53 ERA, but was shelled against Atlanta. Wells Dusenbury,, "Braves shell Urena, Marlins’ bats shut down by Soroka in blowout," 8 June 2019 Attire: Shorts, shells Media viewing: Entire practice. Michelle Gardner, azcentral, "ASU practice report: Jayden Daniels not the only freshman getting attention," 13 Aug. 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

18 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for shell

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

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on shell

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with shell

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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).


concealment of treason or felony

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