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

Illustration of softshell

Illustration of softshell


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

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Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web
The brand, best known for its climbing and winter hardgoods, will debut 24 apparel styles to consumers in fall 2013, including men’s softshell, synthetic insulation and fleece outerwear, tops and bottoms. David Clucas, Outside Online, 19 Oct. 2012 Similarly, hardshell pants are generally less breathable than their softshell cousins. Chris Meehan, Popular Mechanics, 17 Aug. 2022 The promise: Stay protected and mobile in these softshell pants. Outside Online, 9 Mar. 2022 Altogether, Thomas rescued 10 large softshell turtles in two separate attempts. Saleen Martin, USA TODAY, 24 May 2022 Taco John's is offering five softshell or crispy beef tacos for $5.55 for customers with the app that are enrolled in the chain's loyalty program Thursday. Kelly Tyko, USA TODAY, 5 May 2022 In Yellowstone, patriarch John Dutton (Kevin Costner) favors a softshell vest over a denim shirt. Josh St. Clair, Men's Health, 16 Apr. 2022 The water- and wind-resistant, wicking softshell fabric protects her legs while providing her with the necessary stretch and articulated fit to power through crux moves on the mountain. Outside Online, 15 June 2015 After the crustaceans arrived on the east coast of the United States, they were credited with destroying Maine’s softshell clam industry within the past decade, per the Bellingham Herald. Corryn Wetzel, Smithsonian Magazine, 26 Jan. 2022 See More

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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Word History

First Known Use


1830, in the meaning defined above


1611, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of softshell was in 1611

Dictionary Entries Near softshell

soft serve



Cite this Entry

“Softshell.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Sep. 2022.

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Last Updated: 17 Sep 2022

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