shark

1 of 3

noun (1)

: any of numerous mostly marine cartilaginous fishes of medium to large size that have a fusiform body, lateral branchial clefts, and a tough usually dull gray skin roughened by minute tubercles and are typically active predators sometimes dangerous to humans
sharklike adjective

Illustration of shark

Illustration of shark
  • 1 mako
  • 2 tiger
  • 3 thresher
  • 4 hammerhead
  • 5 great white

shark

2 of 3

noun (2)

1
: a rapacious crafty person who takes advantage of others often through usury, extortion, or devious means
loan sharks
2
: one who excels greatly especially in a particular field

shark

3 of 3

verb

sharked; sharking; sharks

transitive verb

1
archaic : to gather hastily
2
archaic : to obtain by some irregular means

intransitive verb

1
archaic : to practice fraud or trickery
2
archaic : sneak

Did you know?

Where did jump the shark come from?

When something jumps the shark it undergoes a significant change for the worse and is on a new trajectory of unrecoverable decline. The happy days of its golden age are over.

The origin of the phrase jump the shark is tucked neatly in that previous sentence: it comes from a 1977 episode of the American TV series “Happy Days” (1974–1984) in which the program's most popular character, Fonzie, jumps over a shark while waterskiing in his trademark leather jacket. Some years later that episode came to be widely identified as marking the beginning of the iconic show's decline, and its plot device became a metaphor for similar transformations:

Nearly all TV shows ever produced have jumped the shark eventually. Such is the nature of television's creative conundrum.
— Monica Collins, Boston Herald, 9 Jan. 2000

Most TV series take three seasons to jump the shark, but in the theater it can happen in 20 minutes …
— Bob Verini, Daily Variety, 18 Sept. 2009

But in its headlong embrace of capitalism and corporate tie-ins, “Sex and the City” may have finally jumped the shark.
— Laura Compton, San Francisco Chronicle, 30 May 2010

The phrase is no longer limited to contexts involving entertainment; anything that undergoes a significant change for the worse that marks the start of a period of decline can be said to have "jumped the shark":

Not everyone agrees when Picasso's art jumped the shark.
— Jeffry Cudlin, Washington Post, 27 Feb. 2011

Silicon Valley has “jumped the shark” and lacks innovation, venture capitalist Peter Thiel says.
— Mike Murphy, MarketWatch, 1 Nov. 2018

Word History

Etymology

Noun (1)

Middle English

Noun (2)

probably modification of German Schurke scoundrel

First Known Use

Noun (1)

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Noun (2)

1599, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1602, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of shark was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near shark

Cite this Entry

“Shark.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shark. Accessed 7 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

shark

1 of 2 noun
: any of numerous marine fishes that have rough grayish skin and a skeleton made of cartilage, that usually prey on other animals and are sometimes dangerous to people, and that include some caught for the oil in their livers or for their hide from which a leather is made
sharklike adjective

shark

2 of 2 noun
1
: a sly greedy person who takes advantage of others
a loan shark
2
: a person who outdoes others especially in a certain area
a shark at arithmetic

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