shoe·​string | \ˈshü-ˌstriŋ \

Definition of shoestring 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : shoelace

2 [ from shoestrings being a typical item sold by itinerant vendors ] : a small sum of money : capital inadequate or barely adequate to the needs of a transaction started the business on a shoestring



Definition of shoestring (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : narrow and long like a shoestring shoestring french fries

2 : operating on, accomplished by, or consisting of a small amount of money or capital a shoestring budget

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Synonyms & Antonyms for shoestring

Synonyms: Noun

chicken feed [slang], chump change, dime, hay, mite, peanuts, pin money, pittance, song, two cents

Antonyms: Noun

big buck(s), boodle, bundle, fortune, king's ransom, megabuck(s), mint, wad

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Did You Know?


In earlier times, wandering peddlers offered townspeople a variety of items and trinkets, such as fabrics, embroidery materials, and even patent medicines. Another popular offering from these traveling salespeople was shoelaces. The fact that such vendors neither earned much money nor charged very much for their wares led to the connection of their literal shoestrings with a metaphorical application of "shoestring" to a very small amount of money. It's still not uncommon to hear of a business being operated on a shoestring (even if these days it's less likely that actual shoelaces are involved), but it's also possible to speak of "traveling on a shoestring" and even "gardening on a shoestring."

Examples of shoestring in a Sentence


trying to start a business on a shoestring

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

She had been strangled with her own shoestring and a strap cut from the suspenders of her overalls. Tim Evans, Indianapolis Star, "Indiana death row holds 11 prisoners," 31 Jan. 2014 The scale is very small—the Lion Theatre has only 88 seats—and the theatrical effects mostly subtle, as befits a director who has put together so many staged readings of Shaw’s plays on a budgetary shoestring. Terry Teachout, WSJ, "‘Heartbreak House’ Review: Reviving Shaw’s ‘Useless Futile Creatures’," 11 Sep. 2018 Veterinarians removed a shoestring that had been wrapped around the pup’s neck and was deeply embedded into the tissue. Madeline Farber, Fox News, "Texas dog found with shoelace embedded in neck, severely swollen head, saved by animal rescue," 6 Sep. 2018 Operating on what amounts to a shoestring, director James McTeigue deserves some credit for milking a premise the encompasses few characters and even less real estate for not-quite 90 minutes. Brian Lowry, CNN, "'Breaking In' lets mom save the day in home-invasion thriller," 10 May 2018 Her family has season tickets, but even fans on a shoestring budget could have joined her there Tuesday night. Jonas Shaffer,, "'I'm afraid to turn on the Orioles tonight': Bleak start tests the patience of Birds diehards," 8 May 2018 In Syria, this work is being done on a (relative) shoestring, with $100 million being spent so far. Trudy Rubin,, "Trump pulls an Obama on Syria | Trudy Rubin," 4 Apr. 2018 Those leaves range from intricate fernlike foliage to straight and strong shoestrings. Debbie Arrington, sacbee, "This sure sign of (almost) spring offers drought relief, too," 16 Feb. 2018 In May 1990, just a year before Azerbaijan declared its independence, Mehman and a group of journalists founded Turan on a shoestring. Washington Post, "US pressure aids release of imprisoned Azeri journalist," 18 Dec. 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Many clubs have attempted to replicate that success on a shoestring budget over the years, and granted Sean Dyche has taken it to arguably new heights this season, but this was no overnight success., "Sean Dyche Looks the Part at Burnley But He's Not Re-Inventing the Wheel With His Brand of Football," 29 May 2018 The vessel at The Mart Dock in downtown Muskegon is now a dedicated memorial and community center, run on a shoestring budget with small tax-deductible donations. Phoebe Wall Howard, Detroit Free Press, "Ship that landed on D-Day, then hauled autos, now a museum in Muskegon," 24 May 2018 My shoestring butternut squash spirals burned, whereas baby carrots, Dang says, are ideal. NBC News, "8 meals you didn't know you could cook in an air fryer," 6 Apr. 2018 Pittman-McGee, with a shoestring budget, also embodies a recent shift in social services in Milwaukee and a few other American communities. John Schmid, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Inspired by trauma care at hometown shelter, Milwaukee native finds way to honor mother," 10 Mar. 2018 The two strongest Republicans seeking to unseat Cruz in Texas’s GOP primary are running shoestring campaigns. Andrea Drusch, star-telegram, "Ted Cruz, once a GOP outlier, now embraced by his party | Fort Worth Star-Telegram," 27 Feb. 2018 In the years that followed, Petit cobbled together his own sled dog kennel on a shoestring budget with help from other mushers, some who lent him dogs and others who gave him food or helped with race costs. Tegan Hanlon, Anchorage Daily News, "‘They’re the kids’: This top Iditarod contender wants a house big enough for 12 dog doors," 24 Feb. 2018 Asia Chances are your backpacking days are long behind you, and the idea of sharing a hostel with a handful of shoestring-budget travelers probably sounds more like a nightmare than a once-in-a-lifetime rite of passage. Ian Centrone, Esquire, "The 13 Best Under-the-Radar Travel Destinations for 2018," 9 Jan. 2018 Get stuffed on a shoestring budget with zero fast food guilt. kansascity, "5 tasty "value meals" that aren't fast food | The Kansas City Star," 11 Dec. 2017

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


1616, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1859, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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Statistics for shoestring

Last Updated

28 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for shoestring

The first known use of shoestring was in 1616

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More Definitions for shoestring



English Language Learners Definition of shoestring

: a small amount of money


shoe·​string | \ˈshü-ˌstriŋ \

Kids Definition of shoestring

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to enclose within walls

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