1 of 6


: unqualified, utter
sheer folly
sheer ignorance
: being free from an adulterant : pure, unmixed
: viewed or acting in dissociation from all else
in terms of sheer numbers
: marked by great and continuous steepness
: of very thin or transparent texture : diaphanous
obsolete : bright, shining
sheerly adverb
sheerness noun


2 of 6

noun (1)

: a sheer fabric
also : an article of such a fabric


3 of 6


: straight up or down without a break : perpendicularly
: in a complete manner : altogether


4 of 6


sheered; sheering; sheers

intransitive verb

: to deviate from a course : swerve

transitive verb

: to cause to sheer


5 of 6

noun (2)

: a turn, deviation, or change in a course (as of a ship)
: the position of a ship riding to a single anchor and heading toward it


6 of 6

noun (3)

: the fore-and-aft curvature from bow to stern of a ship's deck as shown in side elevation
Choose the Right Synonym for sheer

steep, abrupt, precipitous, sheer mean having an incline approaching the perpendicular.

steep implies such sharpness of pitch that ascent or descent is very difficult.

a steep hill
a steep dive

abrupt implies a sharper pitch and a sudden break in the level.

a beach with an abrupt drop-off

precipitous applies to an incline approaching the vertical.

the river winds through a precipitous gorge

sheer suggests an unbroken perpendicular expanse.

sheer cliffs that daunted the climbers

Example Sentences

Adjective a sheer drop to the sea we had to get window shades because passersby could see right through our sheer curtains Adverb mountains rising sheer from the plains Verb the cruise ship sheered to the northwest, putting it safely out of the path of the hurricane the car sheered to avoid hitting the dog
Recent Examples on the Web
And the top spring 2023 fashion pieces range from dainty sheer pastel tops to distressed utilitarian-looking skirts and everything in between. Madeline Fass, Vogue, 20 Mar. 2023 For her evening attire, the actress re-wore her wedding dress to the event, adding a sheer long-sleeve mesh top underneath and styling her look with a pair of sandals, while her husband wore a black suit. Francesca Gariano, Peoplemag, 16 Mar. 2023 Miscommunication causes another queue in Dallas due to the sheer volume of cases going through the juvenile court system. Josephine Peterson, Dallas News, 15 Mar. 2023 At Paris Fashion Week, tinsel also made a few appearances, with designer Isabel Marant making silver and black sweaters, paired with metallic pants and sheer tights, the life of the party. Frances Solá-santiago,, 15 Mar. 2023 There has never been a time in human history when the average person has had access to the sheer volume of conversations that technology makes possible today—all those takes, tweets, threads, text chains, posts, and articles. Hua Hsu, The New Yorker, 13 Mar. 2023 For the performance, Rihanna wore a sheer, black babydoll style top encrusted with shimmering crystals, matching lace trousers, and sleek leather gloves by Maison Margiela. Bianca Betancourt, Harper's BAZAAR, 12 Mar. 2023 Because of the sheer volume of mail, even as the FDA has stepped up staffing at the mail facilities in recent years, the agency can physically inspect fewer than 1% of packages presumed to contain drugs, FDA officials said. Phil Galewitz, oregonlive, 11 Mar. 2023 The outfit: a Versace crocodile-effect minidress, sheer tights, sky-high platform boots and sunglasses, and sparkling Bulgari jewelry. Rose Minutaglio, ELLE, 10 Mar. 2023
Or, more aptly, the viewpoint is that if there are drivers that are sheep, while the drivers that are the wolves will surely and axiomatically sheer them. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 24 Sep. 2021 For example, using the wrong screw bit when twisting the screw can sheer off some of the grooves. Terry Baddoo, USA TODAY, 2 Feb. 2023 Makeup artists have been merging skincare and makeup for years, FYI, blending oils and serums to add a glowing finish or sheer out thicker makeup consistency. Abby Dupes, Seventeen, 23 Sep. 2022 Another option: take this knowledge to your nail salon, find a brown polish that suits your skin tone, ask your artist to thin it out (this, Bieber says, is one of her favorite tricks to sheer out the pigment), then ask for a chrome powder over top. Megan Decker,, 13 Sep. 2022 Save up to 70 percent on everything from The Row's perfect fisherman sandals to sheer Marine Serre tops, while pieces last. Halie Lesavage, Harper's BAZAAR, 30 June 2022 A little goes a long way, so opt for a brush to sheer the product out instead of using your hands. ELLE, 15 Apr. 2022 Bob Schroth, who runs annual shearing demonstrations at the stock show, can sheer a sheep in about 3 minutes. Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post, 22 Jan. 2020
She was also spotted in this sheer, dotted halter neck dress by Giambattista Valli in Paris on March 3. Erica Gonzales, ELLE, 13 Mar. 2023 Sheer clothing and happy-go-lucky jewelry Speaking of trends, sheer (and by extension, transparent layering) is here to stay. The Glamour Editors, Glamour, 3 Mar. 2023 What to Consider: The shirt can be a little sheer, depending on the color. Stefanie Waldek, Travel + Leisure, 21 Feb. 2023 At the time, Fox showed up in a jaw-dropping sheer, sparkling Mugler gown and metallic thong, styled with a wet hair look—à la Kim Kardashian at the 2016 VMAs. Rosa Sanchez, Harper's BAZAAR, 29 Aug. 2022 Many prominent climate advocates have highlighted this sheer and in some ways outrageous injustice, from leaders of small island nations to Greta Thunberg to Pope Francis. Justin Worland, Time, 27 Oct. 2022 The yacht’s reverse sheer began as creative expression but soon became key to the yacht’s structural stiffness. Julia Zaltzman, Robb Report, 16 July 2021 At the end of the day, if the storm has run its course, encountering either land, cold water or vertical wind sheer, the storm fizzles and fades. Joe Mario Pedersen,, 28 June 2021 Meanwhile, Sunak canceled plans for an autumn budget, scrapping its projections to focus on the ongoing crisis, and underscoring the sheer of expense of business and worker protections. John Detrixhe, Quartz, 24 Sep. 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sheer.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History



Middle English schere freed from guilt, probably alteration of skere, from Old Norse skærr pure; akin to Old English scīnan to shine


perhaps alteration of shear entry 1

Noun (3)

perhaps alteration of shear entry 2

First Known Use


circa 1568, in the meaning defined at sense 4

Noun (1)

circa 1920, in the meaning defined above


1599, in the meaning defined at sense 2


1539, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

Noun (2)

1670, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (3)

1691, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of sheer was in 1539

Dictionary Entries Near sheer

Cite this Entry

“Sheer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 4 adjective
: very thin or transparent
sheer stockings
: being such to the fullest degree : utter
sheer nonsense
: taken or acting apart from everything else
by sheer force
: very steep : being almost straight up and down
a sheer drop to the sea
sheerly adverb
sheerness noun


2 of 4 adverb
: in a complete manner : altogether
: straight up or down with no break : perpendicularly


3 of 4 verb
: to swerve from a course


4 of 4 noun
: a turn or change in the course of a ship


from earlier sheer "shining," from Middle English sheer "freed from guilt," probably from an early Norse word skærr "pure"


perhaps an altered form of shear "to cut, cut off"

More from Merriam-Webster on sheer

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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