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

Even the choice to drape her jacket over her shoulders like a cape—a classic street style styling trick—added a touch of springy sophistication to the look. Vogue, "Rosie Huntington-Whiteley Upgrades a Model Off-Duty Styling Trick," 2 May 2019 For those who aren’t concerned about anyone peeping over their shoulder, the EliteBook 830 G6 comes with an optional 1,000-nit display, specifically for working outdoors. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "HP's EliteBook 800 G6 notebook series adds convenience, privacy features," 16 Apr. 2019 See Gemma Chan’s sleek Monse look, black with a slash of shoulder, at the Apex for Youth Gala. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "Last Week, Stars Took Fashion To Extremes," 22 Apr. 2019 But the pitch flew past Chirinos’ glove with the ball then hitting off the shoulder of umpire Adam Hamari and bouncing to the backstop. Bob Condotta, The Seattle Times, "Mariners keep home run streak alive but two Houston grand slams too much to overcome," 13 Apr. 2019 While all of the women's power looks include traditionally masculine elements (think strong shoulders, chains, and lots of armor) in the final season, they're tailored to each character's distinct aesthetic. Glamour, "Why All the Game of Thrones Women Are Dressing Alike in Season 8," 12 Apr. 2019 The mom-of-two wore a glittering, gray-and-black one-shoulder gown. Megan Stein, Country Living, "Carrie Underwood Hits the ACMs Red Carpet Two Months After Giving Birth to Baby Jacob," 7 Apr. 2019 Ian Griffiths, Max Mara's creative director, introduced the Fire Coat for the Fall 2012 collection with elements that were both feminine and masculine, a dramatic collar and flattering body that also carries a sharp shoulder and sleeve. Erik Maza, Town & Country, "Nancy Pelosi's Red Fire Coat is Officially Available to Buy," 14 Mar. 2019 Perhaps, most importantly, the straps settle onto my shoulder in the most comfortable way, without sliding down my arm like a lot of awkwardly-sized handles tend to do. Hana Hong, Marie Claire, "The Item I Wear to Death: My Marc Jacobs Tote," 3 Apr. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

For the world’s most stylish last week was a tale of two silhouettes: long and liquid, or power-shouldered and suited. Edward Barsamian, Vogue, "10 Best Dressed: Week of April 23, 2018," 23 Apr. 2018 Pop Warner will survive if everyone puts away the helmets and shoulder pads and goes to flag-football only leagues before the middle school level. George Diaz,, "Sports needs to clean up cesspool of scandals before apathy wins," 1 Mar. 2018 With the cost of a transplant often exceeding $500,000, many transplant families are unable to shoulder the financial burden of such a procedure. Staff Report, Houston Chronicle, "Richmond toddler needs transplant," 30 Jan. 2018 Beginner modification: Bend your knees and simply hold your legs up without kicking, suggests Jenkins. 5. Walk Out Plank to Push-Up Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, "A Total-Body HIIT Workout You Can Do in Under 15 Minutes From Celebrity Trainer Jeanette Jenkins," 14 Mar. 2019 But farmers are worried that they are asked to shoulder a lot of the burden with retaliation. Tara Golshan, Vox, "Why Trump’s trade agenda might worsen America’s cheese glut," 4 July 2018 Libraries across the state have asked property owners in the past decade to shoulder the burden. Scott Wartman,, "Should you double the amount you pay for Hamilton County's libraries? Top questions surrounding upcoming levy," 23 Apr. 2018 At Barrington High School, hundreds of students exited the front entrance of the school, standing shoulder to shoulder, and headed to the school's outdoor stadium for a 17-minute rally in memory of the 17 victims from Florida. Karen Ann Cullotta,, "Northwest suburban students walk out as part of nationwide protest of gun violence," 14 Mar. 2018 Many cargo owners are resigned to shouldering much of the bill through shipping surcharges. Costas Paris, WSJ, "Singapore Ready to Supply Clean Ship Fuel," 9 Apr. 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

10 May 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).


using a distributed computer network

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