soft·​shell | \ ˈsȯf(t)-ˌshel How to pronounce softshell (audio) \

Definition of softshell

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: any of a family (Trionychidae) of freshwater carnivorous turtles that have sharp claws and mandibles and a flat round shell covered with soft leathery skin instead of with horny plates

called also soft-shelled turtle


\ ˈsȯf(t)-ˌshel How to pronounce soft-shell (audio) \
variants: or soft-shelled \ ˈsȯf(t)-​ˈsheld How to pronounce soft-shelled (audio) \

Definition of soft-shell (Entry 2 of 2)

: having a soft or fragile shell especially as a result of recent shedding soft-shell crabs

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Illustration of softshell


In the meaning defined above

Examples of softshell in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Though green crab gumbo fails the test in comparison to, say, a softshell blue crab Po Boy with remoulade sauce, researchers are especially hopeful the market will change. Colin Moore, Outdoor Life, "These 8 Aquatic Invasive Species are Threatening Fisheries Across the U.S.," 7 Feb. 2020 The male softshell turtle, now dubbed Dwight, arrived at the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth on Nov. 11. Mary Divine, Twin Cities, "Warner, Dexter and Dwight, former Warner Nature Center animals, all find new homes," 5 Dec. 2019 Seafood lovers have sought Maine’s softshell clams for decades, but the state’s harvesters are collecting fewer of those clams, in part because of the spread of crabs and worms that prey on them. USA TODAY, "‘Nightmare’ roof, fire-starting drones, Pennywise Jeep: News from around our 50 states," 29 Oct. 2019 The species taken included: Florida box turtles, Eastern box turtles, striped mud turtles, Florida mud turtles, chicken turtles, Florida softshell turtles, Gulf Coast spiny softshell turtles, spotted turtles and diamondback terrapins. Fox News, "Two suspects charged in largest seizure of turtles in recent history, FWC says," 19 Oct. 2019 The Texas softshell is also an alien species, but much less common here, found mostly along the Colorado River and a few local waters. Ernie Cowan, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Column: Making friends at pond in Escondido’s Kit Carson Park," 12 Oct. 2019 This is a multibillion-dollar industry that impacts animals ranging from softshell turtles and songbirds to rattlesnakes and otters. Rachel Nuwer, Scientific American, "Wildlife Trade Entangles Nearly a Fifth of the Planet’s Vertebrate Animals," 3 Oct. 2019 Now or never Like Wang, Hudson says there’s still reason to believe that new specimens of Yangtze giant softshells can be found and bred. Jason Bittel, National Geographic, "Largest freshwater turtle nears extinction—but this scientist isn't giving up," 1 May 2019 This light softshell has a fleece insulation lining and a durable water-repellent (DWR) finish. Adrienne So, WIRED, "26 Great Outdoor Deals From REI's Huge Labor Day Sale," 24 Aug. 2019

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


1830, in the meaning defined above


1611, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for softshell

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The first known use of softshell was in 1611

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Last Updated

21 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Softshell.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2020.

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How to pronounce soft-shell (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of soft-shell

US : having a shell that is soft or easily broken

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