plural sleeves
: a part of a garment covering an arm
: a tubular part (such as a hollow axle or a bushing) designed to fit over another part
: an open-ended flat or tubular packaging or cover
especially : jacket sense 3c(2)
: a collection of tattoos or one large tattoo that covers the arm or leg
A tall and burly white man, he had a sleeve of tattoos on one arm …Michelle Goldberg
Tattoo artists explain exactly where to start, the types of designs that work well on arms, and how long a full sleeve might take.Allure
Conder has a horror and Halloween-themed leg sleeve, but for the most part, her tattoos are random designs pieced together.Kacie Goode
Not everyone in Brooklyn has a … sleeve tattooA. O. Scott
sleeved adjective
sleeveless adjective
on one's sleeve
: in an honest and open manner
used with wear
wears his emotions on his sleeve
up one's sleeve
: held secretly in reserve
has a few tricks up her sleeve

Example Sentences

a shirt with long sleeves The joint is covered with a metal sleeve.
Recent Examples on the Web Mejia had a sleeve of black tattoos on his left forearm and was wearing a San Francisco 49ers winter hat. The Arizona Republic, 16 May 2023 In the Directors’ Fortnight competition, then a year old, the German absurdist comedy Even Dwarfs Started Small gave audiences a hint of what a 20-something festival first-timer named Werner Herzog might have up his creative sleeve. Alex Ritman, The Hollywood Reporter, 16 May 2023 In each instance, the volunteer washed one forearm and left the other untouched and then wore nylon sleeves on both arms for one hour. Kaitlin Sullivan, NBC News, 10 May 2023 For yesterday's occasion, Hanbury, who is a former fashion model and political researcher, opted to wear a white dress with bold black detailing, including thick bands on her sleeves and a bow at her neck. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, 8 May 2023 From the jaw-dropping death of patriarch Logan to Shiv and Tom’s rekindled romance to Lukas Mattson’s blood brick to Roman’s recent firing spree, there’s no shortage of surprises up Armstrong’s sleeve. Abby Montanez, Robb Report, 5 May 2023 The successful second season spawned two spin-off series, The Book of Boba Fett, and the upcoming Ahsoka. Disney+ has other blockbuster Star Wars titles up its sleeves, too. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz, 3 May 2023 The piece displayed several dramatic details, from the billowing ruched off-the-shoulder sleeves to the massive bow and attached train that adorned the back. Chelsey Sanchez, Harper's BAZAAR, 3 May 2023 Jenner dressed on theme in a Marc Jacobs sequin bodysuit with floor-length sleeves. Alyssa Bailey, ELLE, 2 May 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'sleeve.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English sleve, going back to Old English slīefe (West Saxon), slēfe (Anglian), feminine weak noun, going back to a Germanic noun base *slaubj- (whence also East Frisian [Saterland] sleeuwe "sleeve," North Frisian [Mooring] sliiw), from a verbal root *slaub- seen also in Old English slēfan (weak verb) "to slip (clothes) on," Middle Dutch slōven "to roll up, strip off, slip over something," sloof "coat of rough cloth, habit," slove "cover, wrapper," regional German Schlaube "skin, peel (of fruit, etc.)," going back to Indo-European *slou̯bh-, causative derivative of *sleu̯bh- "move easily, slip," whence also Latin (with suffix *-re/o-ko-) lūbricus "slippery, difficult to hold"

Note: This Germanic etymon for "sleeve" is evidently of Anglo-Frisian date, judging by its appearance in North and East Frisian; in West Frisian it appears to have been replaced by Dutch mouw. —The postulation of *slou̯bh- is based on the R. Lühr's hypothesis (see note at slip entry 5), though others appear to regard *slaub- as arising within Germanic, without positing an Indo-European base (thus Feist/Lehmann, A Gothic Etymological Dictionary; G. Kroonen, Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic); thereby the verb *sleupan- "to creep, glide" (see slip entry 5) can be added to the above group of words, as well as Gothic afslaupjan "to strip off (a garment)," a causative with o-grade ablaut. Kroonen additionally cites also Old Frisian slēpan "to fasten, put (a noose around the neck)" and Old Saxon slōpian "to loosen." The putative Old English verb slīepan cited by Feist/Lehmann and Kroonen does not appear to exist, nor does slíefan cited by Lühr. Kroonen cites as a form comparative within Indo-European Lithuanian įslupti "to slip in" and Latvian šļupt "to glide out." For more Germanic nominal derivatives see slop entry 1.

First Known Use

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

Time Traveler
The first known use of sleeve was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near sleeve

Cite this Entry

“Sleeve.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


: the part of a garment covering the arm
: a part that fits over or around something like a sleeve
sleeved adjective
sleeveless adjective

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