shoul·​der | \ ˈshōl-dər How to pronounce shoulder (audio) \

Definition of shoulder

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : the laterally projecting part of the human body formed of the bones and joints with their covering tissue by which the arm is connected with the trunk
b : the region of the body of nonhuman vertebrates that corresponds to the shoulder but is less projecting
2a : the two shoulders and the upper part of the back usually used in plural
b shoulders plural : capacity for bearing a task or blame placed the guilt squarely on his shoulders
3 : a cut of meat including the upper joint of the foreleg and adjacent parts — see lamb illustration
4 : the part of a garment at the wearer's shoulder
5 : an area adjacent to or along the edge of a higher, more prominent, or more important part: such as
a(1) : the part of a hill or mountain near the top
(2) : a lateral protrusion or extension of a hill or mountain
b : either edge of a roadway specifically : the part of a roadway outside of the traveled way
6 : a rounded or sloping part (as of a stringed instrument or a bottle) where the neck joins the body


shouldered; shouldering\ ˈshōl-​d(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce shouldering (audio) \

Definition of shoulder (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to push or thrust with or as if with the shoulder : jostle shouldered his way through the crowd
2a : to place or bear on the shoulder shouldered her knapsack
b : to assume the burden or responsibility of shoulder the blame

intransitive verb

: to push with or as if with the shoulders aggressively

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Other Words from shoulder


shouldered \ ˈshōl-​dərd How to pronounce shouldered (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for shoulder

Synonyms: Verb

accept, assume, bear, take over, undertake

Antonyms: Verb

disavow, disclaim, disown, repudiate

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Examples of shoulder in a Sentence


He rested the baby's head on his shoulder. He grabbed my shoulder and turned me around. She carried a backpack on one shoulder. The horse is five feet high at the shoulder. We had pork shoulder for dinner.


He shouldered the blame for the project's failure. The company will shoulder the costs of the repairs. She shouldered the full burden of raising three children. He shouldered the door open. She shouldered through the crowd. She shouldered her way through the crowd. The soldiers shouldered their rifles and marched away.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Dua Lipa wearing a strappy one-shoulder dress covered in radioactive green graphics in her native London, England. Vogue, "The 19 Best Fashion Instagrams of the Week: Cardi B, Rick Owens, and More," 9 Mar. 2019 Go with a poufy shoulder, like Aimee Song, or tuck a bodysuit into your bottoms. Marina Liao, Marie Claire, "These Coachella Outfit Ideas Are So Good, You'll Be Watching the Likes Roll In," 7 Mar. 2019 On the 2019 red carpet, Emma took a risk with a daring, sharp-shoulder Louis Vuitton outfit, featuring lots and lots of copper sequins. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "Emma Stone's 2019 Oscars Dress Is Basically a Sequin-Covered Honey Comb," 25 Feb. 2019 But the animated Disney series’ title tune is the undisputed perfect match: his little shoulders pop at all the right bass twangs, and when the scissors speed up, so do his moves. Verge Staff, The Verge, "The best memes of 2018, according to The Verge staff," 27 Dec. 2018 The other officer was hit in a shoulder but was expected to be OK, reported Andrew Lumia of FOX 5 San Diego. Fox News, "Gunman dead after 2 cops shot in San Diego standoff; 1 officer reported clinging to life," 2 Oct. 2018 Two sets of handcuffs had to be used, due to the width of Keim's shoulders, the report says. Mark Price, charlotteobserver, "Cardinals’ GM, who played for NC State, lied to cops about his job, police report shows," 11 July 2018 Characters are breaking down, getting thrown into new situations, and constantly looking over their shoulders. Jacob Kastrenakes, The Verge, "New trailers: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, UglyDolls, and more," 10 Nov. 2018 Sightlines are good at the side mirrors and over the shoulder. Mark Maynard,, "2019 Volkswagen Jetta: 7th generation wide-body reboot," 6 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Evans would be a wonderful addition to any team that needs a spark-plug scorer who can also shoulder playmaking responsibilities--a team like the Sixers, Pelicans, or Celtics. Molly Blue,, "Should the Portland Trail Blazers trade for Tyreke Evans?," 30 Jan. 2018 Munich Re's Rauch said about 30 to 50 percent of storm damage is usually insured in the United States but often less than 10 percent in developing countries, meaning nine-tenths of the people hit will end up shouldering a bigger economic burden. Seth Borenstein, Fox News, "US hurricane, Asian typhoon: 1 brings water, the other, wind," 16 Sep. 2018 White said in an interview that California's economy is strong enough that families should not be shouldering the burden of higher college costs. Joy Resmovits,, "Cal State leader shelves proposed tuition hike: 'It's the right thing to do, but it's not without risk'," 20 Apr. 2018 But while previous presidents were dealing with cautious, aging kings who ruled by consensus within their extended family, Mr. Trump is confronted with a reckless young crown prince who has shouldered aside family rivals to reach the top. William A. Galston, WSJ, "Congress Can Stand Up to the Saudis," 23 Oct. 2018 Able to score over either shoulder in the paint or simply overpower opponents for dunks. Heather Boehm,, "Suns Select Deandre Ayton with No. 1 Pick in 2018 NBA Draft," 21 June 2018 There are colleges to search for and some needed parenting relief for his wife, Janna, who Ryan estimates has shouldered about 90% of the parenting load during his time as speaker. Phil Mattingly, CNN, "The '2-by-4' that hit Paul Ryan before his decision not to run again," 11 Apr. 2018 So did Murray, a second-year pro who shouldered a larger role due to the season-ending injury to Berry in the opening game vs. New England. Terez A. Paylor, kansascity, "Chiefs’ Justin Houston logs biggest workload since 2014 | The Kansas City Star," 11 Jan. 2018 Do the same thing with your left hand to right shoulder. SELF, "A 15-Minute No-Equipment Core Workout You Can Do at Home," 18 Jan. 2019

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


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


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

History and Etymology for shoulder


Middle English sholder, from Old English sculdor; akin to Old High German scultra shoulder

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Statistics for shoulder

Last Updated

15 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for shoulder

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

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More Definitions for shoulder



English Language Learners Definition of shoulder

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the part of your body where your arm is connected
: the part of an animal's body where a front leg is connected
: a cut of meat from the shoulder of an animal



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

: to deal with or accept (something) as your responsibility or duty
: to push (something) with your shoulder
: to move forward by pushing through something with the shoulders


shoul·​der | \ ˈshōl-dər How to pronounce shoulder (audio) \

Kids Definition of shoulder

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the part of the body of a person or animal where the arm or foreleg joins the body
2 : the part of a piece of clothing that covers a person's shoulder
3 : a part that resembles a person's shoulder in shape the shoulder of a hill
4 : the edge of a road


shouldered; shouldering

Kids Definition of shoulder (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to push with the shoulder He shouldered his way through the crowd.
2 : to accept as a burden or duty You must shoulder the blame.


shoul·​der | \ ˈshōl-dər How to pronounce shoulder (audio) \

Medical Definition of shoulder

1 : the laterally projecting part of the human body formed of the bones and joints with their covering tissue by which the arm is connected with the trunk
2 : the two shoulders and the upper part of the back usually used in plural

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Comments on shoulder

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


a shady place in a garden or forest

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