\ ˈshelf How to pronounce shelf (audio) \
plural shelves\ ˈshelvz How to pronounce shelf (audio) \

Definition of shelf

1a : a thin flat usually long and narrow piece of material (such as wood) fastened horizontally (as on a wall) at a distance from the floor to hold objects
b : one of several similar pieces in a closet, bookcase, or similar structure
c : the contents of a shelf the author of a shelf of best sellers
2 : something resembling a shelf in form or position: such as
a : a sandbank or ledge of rocks usually partially submerged
b : a flat projecting layer of rock
c : the submerged gradually sloping border of a continent or island : continental shelf
off the shelf
: available from stock : not made to order off the shelf equipment
on the shelf
: in a state of inactivity or uselessness

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Other Words from shelf

shelfful \ ˈshelf-​ˌfu̇l How to pronounce shelf (audio) \ noun
shelflike \ ˈshelf-​ˌlīk How to pronounce shelf (audio) \ adjective

Examples of shelf in a Sentence

Put the vase on the shelf. the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet Will you get that book down off the shelf? We don't have much shelf space.
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Recent Examples on the Web That's 35 million vaccines sitting on a shelf somewhere. CBS News, "Transcript: Scott Gottlieb discusses coronavirus on "Face the Nation," January 3, 2021," 3 Jan. 2021 People were enraged to learn that evidence of such serious crimes was often bagged, boxed and forgotten on a shelf. Anchorage Daily News, "After 3 years and $1.5 million devoted to testing rape kits, Alaska made one new arrest," 30 Dec. 2020 Her rape kit languished on a shelf for four months, delaying prosecution. Washington Post, "Cori Bush was on streets in Ferguson. She’s about to take her seat in Congress.," 22 Dec. 2020 Lining up 2- and 4-inch tall jars on a shelf with 12 inches of clearance is a waste of precious vertical space! Jarrett Melendez, Bon Appétit, "If You're Serious About Kitchen Organizing, You Need This Spice Rack," 14 Dec. 2020 At six inches tall, this basket would look great on a shelf or even tucked away in a corner. Patrice J Williams, USA TODAY, "12 cozy home items you can buy from Black-owned businesses," 8 Dec. 2020 Arrange a candy-colored advent calendar right on a shelf just like this crafty look from Sugar & Cloth. Monique Valeris, Good Housekeeping, "Unexpected Christmas Color Schemes to Make Your Celebration One to Remember," 1 Dec. 2020 Like a Nordic himmeli, this versatile, 6.75-inch-long metallic mobile ($12) can dangle from a tree like an ornament, hang from the ceiling as an air plant holder or sit brightly on a shelf. oregonlive, "10 easy ways to add holiday sparkle to your home: A brass wreath, copper ornament, mini teal tree," 28 Nov. 2020 These gifts won't end up forgotten in a closet or on a shelf, they will definitely be put to use! Samantha Weiss-hills, Country Living, "4 DIY Gifts That Leave No Mess Behind," 12 Nov. 2020

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for shelf

Middle English, probably from Old English scylfe; akin to Old Norse hlīthskjalf Odin's seat

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Time Traveler for shelf

Time Traveler

The first known use of shelf was in the 14th century

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Statistics for shelf

Last Updated

10 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Shelf.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for shelf


How to pronounce shelf (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of shelf

: a flat board which is attached to a wall, frame, etc., and on which objects can be placed
geology : a flat area of rock, sand, etc., especially underwater


\ ˈshelf How to pronounce shelf (audio) \
plural shelves\ ˈshelvz \

Kids Definition of shelf

1 : a flat piece (as of wood or metal) set above a floor (as on a wall or in a bookcase) to hold things
2 : a flat area (as of rock)

More from Merriam-Webster on shelf

Nglish: Translation of shelf for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of shelf for Arabic Speakers

Comments on shelf

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