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 shoulder (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 shoulder (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for shoulder

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Verb

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Examples of shoulder in a Sentence

Noun 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. Verb 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 College basketball coaches throughout the country have found ways to honor the late John Thompson, like sporting his signature towel on the shoulder look. Jordan Mendoza, USA TODAY, "'The Legacy Continues': Cal State Fullerton coach honors college basketball's Black trailblazers," 27 Feb. 2021 From her extravagant looks playing Delia Deetz in Beetlejuice, to her ’90s power-shoulder suiting in Home Alone, O’Hara’s eye for fashion as a means of bringing her characters to life has never waned. Liam Hess, Vogue, "Catherine O’Hara Breaks Down Her Best Fashion Moments, From the Screen to the Red Carpet," 27 Feb. 2021 In Circuit 1, perform 10-15 reps of the sumo squat and Superman, and 6-8 reps per side of the plank with shoulder tap. Sarah Madaus, SELF, "A 15-Minute Cardio Workout With Zero Equipment," 27 Feb. 2021 Another female figure, believed to be Grief, cries on History’s shoulder. Abigail Tucker, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Tragic Irony of the U.S. Capitol’s Peace Monument," 26 Feb. 2021 This is made from eco-friendly materials and the padded shoulder straps relieve pressure on your body. Chris Hachey, BGR, "Best Basketball Backpack," 26 Feb. 2021 For late-night dancing, the bride wore a minidress with tulle off-shoulder sleeves and a long tulle train, also by Khyeli. Carrie Goldberg, Harper's BAZAAR, "Bettina Looney & Carlos Segovia's Epic Wedding in South Africa Was Festive, Family Oriented—and All About Fashion," 26 Feb. 2021 Puk, the 2016 first-round pick, did not pitch in a game in 2020 due to recurring shoulder issues. Matt Kawahara, San Francisco Chronicle, "A's A.J. Puk eyes healthy season after recent injuries: 'I just take it on the chin'," 26 Feb. 2021 Just don't assume the disappointment of 2020 has put a chip on Yelich's shoulder. Steve Megargee, Star Tribune, "Brewers' Yelich eager for fresh start after 2020 struggles," 26 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb After a 17-win season with the Brewers in 2017, Davies made only 13 starts in 2018 due to back and shoulder injuries. Paul Sullivan,, "‘Kyle Lite’? How new Chicago Cubs starter Zach Davies is similar — and different — to ace Kyle Hendricks.," 21 Feb. 2021 The result has been life-changing for women, who shoulder the vast majority of child care responsibilities, just as the crisis has greatly expanded the challenge of being a parent. New York Times, "Venezuelan Women Lose Access to Contraception, and Control of Their Lives," 20 Feb. 2021 Those terms just don’t apply to art museums in Sacramento, Tulsa, Okla., or Coral Gables, Fla., which will shoulder the unintended consequences of what the Met decides. Los Angeles Times, "Commentary: While the Met contemplates selling its treasured art, rich trustees sit idle," 14 Feb. 2021 Cleveland's head coach, Kevin Stefanski, is the one who should shoulder the majority of the blame. Lorenzo Reyes, USA TODAY, "NFL Week 16 winners and losers: Is Packers QB Aaron Rodgers running away in MVP race?," 28 Dec. 2020 Socialists, liberals, and leftists have long advocated for more generous benefits to families that would alleviate some of the financial burden many parents currently shoulder alone. Caleb Brennan, The New Republic, "Operation Santa Is a Horror Story About American Poverty," 25 Dec. 2020 While California’s state and local regulations have limited new development, some critics say fast-growing tech companies shoulder some of the blame for the housing shortage. Nicole Friedman, WSJ, "Facebook Pledges $150 Million to Build Homes for Silicon Valley’s Poorest," 9 Dec. 2020 Pham, who was named acting ICE director in August, took aim at local jurisdictions that don't cooperate with immigration officials and said local governments that don't assist ICE must shoulder the blame when wanted persons commit crimes. Matt Mckinney, Star Tribune, "ICE director, in Twin Cities, announces more than 100 immigration arrests," 28 Oct. 2020 This project will also rebuild all eastbound, westbound and shoulder lanes from Kent Lake Road to the I-275 interchange, MDOT states. Slone Terranella, Detroit Free Press, "Major road construction in 2021: 7 metro Detroit projects to know about," 12 Feb. 2021

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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Time Traveler for shoulder

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for shoulder

Last Updated

1 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Shoulder.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

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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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