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 Embiid has missed 19 games and has been bothered by a sore shoulder in recent days. Kevin Cooney, ajc, "76ers rout Hawks 127-83 to clinch playoff spot," 29 Apr. 2021 There are plenty of earnestly respectful vaccine selfies, where the inoculated person bares a shoulder and thanks science for their shot. New York Times, "When Vaccines Become an Internet Personality Test," 27 Apr. 2021 Joel Embiid is questionable with a sore right shoulder after also sitting out Saturday's loss in Milwaukee. Matt Eppers, USA TODAY, "Bradley Beal, Wizards on longest win streak since Michael Jordan came out of retirement for second time," 26 Apr. 2021 Since retiring from football, Marshall has had both knees and a shoulder replaced and has a degenerative disc in his neck, nerve impairments in both arms and chronic pain from ankles broken four times. Mallory Busch,, "1985 Chicago Bears: Where are they now?," 24 Apr. 2021 While some daring cyclists occasionally brave the sidewalks or a narrow shoulder before darting to a side street, most stay away., "Bikes on the McGrath Highway? The state’s preparing to redesign the urban artery," 23 Apr. 2021 The suspect was apprehended soon after and was treated for a gunshot wound to a shoulder, the report said. Dom Calicchio, Fox News, "California sheriff’s deputy's 2016 slaying leads to life sentence for defendant," 23 Apr. 2021 The Celtics were without Jaylen Brown because of a sore left shoulder, and Jayson Tatum struggled shooting for the second straight game, going 3 of 17. Kyle Hightower,, "Walker ties season high with 32 points, Celtics beat Suns," 22 Apr. 2021 In particular, children who witness the death of a parent or the loss of a parent shoulder a tremendous burden. Lisa Deaderick, San Diego Union-Tribune, "CDC declares racism a public health threat. Researchers weigh in on why.," 18 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Allowing business to serve patrons in the city’s public spaces — such as dining bubbles and retail tents on sidewalks — gives restaurants and shops an opportunity to generate more revenue to shoulder that burden. Leia Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Salt Lake City will close Main Street again this summer to welcome diners and pedestrians," 28 Apr. 2021 It’s that for at least these six minutes, they aren’t required to shoulder that responsibility. Maren Larsen, Outside Online, "Let Women in Outdoor Films Be Jackasses," 27 Apr. 2021 Parents, often women, who could no longer afford child care, were forced leave their jobs and shoulder the burden at home. USA Today, "The child care industry collapsed during COVID. So Biden's giving it $39B from the stimulus.," 15 Apr. 2021 The remarks brush against a growing number of politicians calling for the richest to shoulder more of the burden of the record borrowing taken on by governments to prop up economies hit by Covid-19. Fortune, "Taxing the wealthy to pay for COVID recovery is a bad idea, this Nobel prize-winning economist says," 12 Apr. 2021 The rarity of such a proposal is twofold: that there is space in prime Manhattan for new housing construction, and that a white, wealthy neighborhood would be expected to shoulder changes that are usually relegated to other communities. New York Times, "Does SoHo, Haven for Art and Wealth, Have Room for Affordable Housing?," 4 Apr. 2021 That doesn’t mean that the company is willing to shoulder the financial burden alone. Washington Post, "The Ever Given is free, but litigation could prevent it from leaving the Suez Canal," 2 Apr. 2021 The big question everyone in the food industry needs to ask themselves is: What other players in our food system need to come in and help shoulder the risk that farmers face? Bon Appétit, "I Don’t Know Many Farmers Who Have the Kind of Relationship I Have With This Restaurant Group," 24 Mar. 2021 And working mothers typically have had to shoulder more child care and education responsibilities than men. Laurent Belsie, The Christian Science Monitor, "‘It’s people being resourceful’: Why business startups are booming," 23 Mar. 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

30 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Shoulder.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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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

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