shel·​ter | \ ˈshel-tər How to pronounce shelter (audio) \

Definition of shelter

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : something that covers or affords protection a bomb shelter
b : an establishment providing food and shelter (as to the homeless)
c : an establishment that houses and feeds stray or unwanted animals
2 : a position or the state of being covered and protected took shelter


sheltered; sheltering\ ˈshel-​t(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce sheltering (audio) \

Definition of shelter (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to constitute or provide a shelter for : protect has led a sheltered life
2 : to place under shelter or protection sheltered himself in a mountain cave
3 : to protect (income) from taxation

intransitive verb

: to take shelter
shelter in place
: to remain inside in one's current location until a danger has passed : to temporarily take shelter in a protected space The … campus was placed under lockdown in response to the shooting. People on campus were advised to shelter in place. No students were hurt or endangered, the school said.— Julia Jacobo These communities—including our own—need to start hardening themselves against future fires. That means preparing homes for fires the way we already do for earthquakes and floods. It also means developing better alert systems, heeding evacuation warnings when they come and being prepared to shelter in place when escape routes are cut off …The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, California)

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from shelter


shelterless \ ˈshel-​tər-​ləs How to pronounce shelterless (audio) \ adjective


shelterer \ ˈshel-​tər-​ər How to pronounce shelterer (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for shelter

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of shelter in a Sentence

Noun We made a shelter from branches. a shelter for battered women The organization provides food and shelter for homeless people. The crowd ran for shelter when the rain started. They sought shelter from the storm. Verb A cave sheltered the climbers during the storm. They sheltered in a cave while they waited for the storm to pass.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun And if the Mars colony plans to endure and put down roots, that means having food, shelter, medical care, and mental and emotional stimulation for the entire population. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "Elon Musk Says Settlers Will Likely Die on Mars. He's Right.," 2 Sep. 2020 With fresh water, food and shelter, and in some cases anti-toxins and vitamins, the birds respond quickly, say staff. Tom Stienstra,, "Inside Klamath Refuge’s ‘Duck Hospital’: Crews save 2,000 birds infected with avian botulism," 1 Sep. 2020 Leaving essentials like food and shelter to the whims of the market produces an extreme kind of disorganization. J.c. Pan, The New Republic, "Rotting Produce, Vacant Luxury Apartments, and Fake Scarcity in a Pandemic," 1 Sep. 2020 Families struggle to find food and shelter to outlast a pandemic order with no end date. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Who gets asylum? Even before Trump, system was riddled with bias and disparities," 23 Aug. 2020 Foreign donors have so far focused their assistance to Lebanon on medicine and food aid, although the United Nations launched an appeal last week for an emergency $565 million fund to cover food, shelter, health and education. Washington Post, "Beirut needs billions of dollars it doesn’t have to rebuild after massive blast," 21 Aug. 2020 The Postman a survivor in post-apocalyptic America pretends to be a mail carrier, initially as a way of acquiring food and shelter. Clark Collis,, "The Postman author warns Donald Trump's attack on the mail service could take us back to the Middle Ages," 17 Aug. 2020 Food, shelter, and other aid - from the U.S., France, and others - is going to the people via NGOs, not the Lebanese government. David Clark Scott, The Christian Science Monitor, "Monday Sunrise Briefing: Generosity for Lebanon but little trust," 10 Aug. 2020 The south Minneapolis group, meanwhile, initially was about connecting emergency food, shelter and other services to people after arson fires destroyed businesses and buildings in their community. Jean Hopfensperger, Star Tribune, "In Minnesota, mutual aid groups surge in wake of Floyd death," 9 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Those who are dislocated from their homes may be unable to shelter in place and may have more difficulty maintaining a routine of social distancing. Danielle Wallace, Fox News, "Texas police who evicted Houston family on TV raise $228G to help amid coronavirus pandemic," 8 Sep. 2020 Don't give them food, water and shelter all in one spot. Anton L. Delgado, The Arizona Republic, "How the hot, dry Phoenix summer set off an invasion of crickets and other pests," 5 Sep. 2020 Anyone who chooses to leave campus rather than shelter in the dorms would have to ask the school’s permission to eventually come back. Washington Post, "One college’s students are on covid-19 dorm lockdown. They can only leave for food and bathrooms.," 4 Sep. 2020 Those who live in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, as well as people deemed medically fragile, must continue to shelter in place through Sept. 15. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, "Lumber cost jacked, turtle benefit, eviction relief: News from around our 50 states," 2 Sep. 2020 Ordering online might be more attractive as people try to shelter in place to combat COVID-19. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, "Some scammers hide behind sites selling face masks," 1 Sep. 2020 Kimmel thanked Johnson on the air for coming to do the show when a lot of other people were starting to shelter at home. Nina Metz Chicago Tribune, Star Tribune, "Jake Johnson takes his isolation personally," 1 Sep. 2020 That changed this spring when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, and Gov. Newsom decided in March that Californians should shelter at home to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Weaving presents from the past: Textiles from a long-ago trip to Cameroon find unexpected use in pandemic," 30 Aug. 2020 The source of the blaze was not immediately clear, but Mr. Edwards urged nearby residents to shelter in place and turn off air conditioners. The Christian Science Monitor, "Now a Category 1 storm, Laura blasts Gulf Coast for two days," 27 Aug. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'shelter.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of shelter


1585, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1590, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for shelter


origin unknown

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about shelter

Time Traveler for shelter

Time Traveler

The first known use of shelter was in 1585

See more words from the same year

Statistics for shelter

Last Updated

10 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Shelter.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Sep. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for shelter


How to pronounce shelter (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of shelter

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a structure that covers or protects people or things
: a place that provides food and protection for people or animals that need assistance
: a place to live



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

: to protect (someone) from danger, bad weather, etc. : to provide shelter for (someone)
: to be in a place that provides protection from danger, bad weather, etc. : to take shelter


shel·​ter | \ ˈshel-tər How to pronounce shelter (audio) \

Kids Definition of shelter

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : something that covers or protects We made a shelter from branches.
2 : a place that provides food and housing to those in need a homeless shelter an animal shelter
3 : the condition of being protected I found shelter from the storm.


sheltered; sheltering

Kids Definition of shelter (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to provide with a place that covers or protects : be a shelter for A cave sheltered the climbers.
2 : to find and use a shelter for protection … within minutes, half the class was sheltering under desks …— J. K. Rowling, Chamber of Secrets

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on shelter

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Homophone Quiz

  • three bears two of them look like theyre whispering to a third bear who looks chuffed to be the center of attention
  • In order to judge how people felt, the senator's office hired a firm to take a ______.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!