Sheffield Look up Sheffield at
manufacturing city in Yorkshire, noted for cutlery and metalwork since at least 14c. The name is from late Old English Scafeld "Open Land by the River Sheaf," an Old English river name, perhaps from sceað "boundary."
sheik (n.) Look up sheik at
"head of an Arab family," also "head of a Muslim religious order," 1570s, from Arabic shaykh "chief," literally "old man," from base of shakha "to grow old." Popularized by "The Sheik," novel in Arabian setting by E.M. Hull (1919), and the movie version, "The Sheikh," 1921, starring Rudolph Valentino, which gave it a 1920s sense of "strong, romantic lover."
Sheila Look up Sheila at
fem. proper name, Irish equivalent of Celia, shortened form of Cecilia, the fem. form of Cecil. A standard type of an Irish women's name since 1828; slang for "girlfriend, young woman" dates from 1839.
shekel (n.) Look up shekel at
early 13c., sicle, via Old French and Latin, from Hebrew sheqel, from shaqal "he weighed." Chief silver coin of ancient Hebrews, also a unit of weight. Modern form in English dates from mid-16c. As slang for "money," it dates from 1871.
sheldrake (n.) Look up sheldrake at
early 14c., from sheld- "variegated" + drake "male duck." First element cognate with Middle Dutch schillede "separated, variegated," West Flemish schilde, from schillen (Dutch verschillen "to make different"), from Proto-Germanic *skeli-, from PIE root *(s)kel- (1) "to cut" (see scale (n.1)). This is the origin considered most likely, though English sheld by itself is a dialect word attested only from c. 1500. OED finds derivation from shield (n.), on resemblance to the patterns on shields, "improbable."
shelf (n.) Look up shelf at
late 14c., from Middle Low German schelf "shelf, set of shelves," or from Old English cognate scylfe, which perhaps meant "shelf, ledge, floor," and scylf "peak, pinnacle," from Proto-Germanic *skelf- "split," possibly from the notion of a split piece of wood (compare Old Norse skjölf "bench"), from PIE root *(s)kel- (1) "to cut, cleave" (see scale (n.1)).

Shelf life first recorded 1927. Phrase on the shelf "out of the way, inactive" is attested from 1570s; of unmarried women with no prospects from 1839. Off the shelf "ready-made" is from 1936. Meaning "ledge of rock" is from 1809, perhaps from or influenced by shelf (n.2). Related: Shelves.
shelf (n.2) Look up shelf at
"sandbank," 1540s, of unknown origin. Related: Shelfy "abounding in sandbanks."
shell (v.) Look up shell at
1560s, "to remove (a nut, etc.) from a shell," from shell (n.). The meaning "to bombard with shells" is first attested 1856. To shell out "disburse" (1801) is a figurative use from the image of extracting nuts. Related: Shelled; shelling.
shell (n.) Look up shell at
Old English sciell, scill, Anglian scell "seashell, eggshell," related to Old English scealu "shell, husk," from Proto-Germanic *skaljo "piece cut off; shell; scale" (source also of West Frisian skyl "peel, rind," Middle Low German schelle "pod, rind, egg shell," Gothic skalja "tile"), with the shared notion of "covering that splits off," from PIE root *(s)kel- (1) "to cut, cleave" (source also of Old Church Slavonic skolika "shell," Russian skala "bark, rind;" see scale (n.1)). Italian scaglia "chip" is from Germanic.

Sense of "mere exterior" is from 1650s; that of "hollow framework" is from 1791. Meaning "structure for a band or orchestra" is attested from 1938. Military use (1640s) was first of hand grenades, in reference to the metal case in which the gunpowder and shot were mixed; the notion is of a "hollow object" filled with explosives. Hence shell shock, first recorded 1915. Shell game "a swindle" is from 1890, from a version of three-card monte played with a pea and walnut shells.
shellac (n.) Look up shellac at
also shell lac, 1713, from shell (n.) + lac. Translates French laque en écailles "lac in thin plates." Commercially, lac was considered as stick lac (still on the twigs, insects and all), seed-lac (resin without the twigs and insects, partly processed), and fully processed plates of shell lac.
shellac (v.) Look up shellac at
1876, from shellac (n.). The slang sense of "beat soundly" is 1920s, perhaps from the notion of shellac as a "finish." Shellacked "drunk" is from 1922 (compare plastered). Related: Shellacking.
shellfish (n.) Look up shellfish at
also shell-fish, Old English scylfiscas (plural); see shell (n.) + fish (n.).
shelta (n.) Look up shelta at
secret language of Irish tinkers, 1876, of unknown origin. According to OED it mostly consists of Irish or Gaelic words with inversion or arbitrary substitution of initial consonants.
shelter (n.) Look up shelter at
1580s, "structure affording protection," possibly an alteration of Middle English sheltron, sheldtrume "roof or wall formed by locked shields," from Old English scyldtruma, from scield "shield" (see shield (n.)) + truma "troop," related to Old English trum "firm, strong" (see trim).

If so, the original notion is of a compact body of men protected by interlocking shields. OED finds this "untenable" and proposed derivation from shield + -ture. Figurative sense is recorded from 1580s; meaning "temporary lodging for homeless poor" is first recorded 1890 in Salvation Army jargon; sense of "temporary home for animals" is from 1971. Related: Shelterless.
shelter (v.) Look up shelter at
1580s, "to screen, protect," from shelter (n.); in the income investment sense, from 1955. Meaning "to take shelter" is from c. 1600. Related: Sheltered; sheltering.
sheltered (adj.) Look up sheltered at
"screened, protected," 1590s, past participle adjective from shelter (v.). Meaning "protected from the usual hardships of life" is from 1888. Related: Shelteredness.
Sheltie (n.) Look up Sheltie at
"small pony," 1640s, "Shetland pony," from Shelty, abbreviation of Sheltand, metathesis of Shetland. Or the word may represent the Orkney pronunciation of Old Norse Hjalti "Shetlander."
shelve (v.1) Look up shelve at
1590s, "to overhang," also "to provide with shelves," probably a back-formation from shelves, plural of shelf (n.1). Meaning "put on a shelf" first recorded 1650s; metaphoric sense of "lay aside, dismiss" is from 1812. Related: Shelved; shelving.
shelve (v.2) Look up shelve at
"to slope gradually," 1610s, from Middle English shelven "to slope," from shelfe "grassy slope," a word related to shelf (n.1). Related: Shelved; shelving.
Shema Look up Shema at
from Hebrew shema "hear!," imperative of shama "to hear." First word of Deuteronomy vi.4.
shemozzle (n.) Look up shemozzle at
see schlemazel.
Shenandoah Look up Shenandoah at
originally a place name in Dutchess County, N.Y., from Oneida (Iroquoian) family name Skenondoah, derived from oskenon:to "deer." Later transferred to river and valley in Virginia.
shenanigan (n.) Look up shenanigan at
1855, of uncertain origin. Earliest records of it are in San Francisco and Sacramento, California, U.S. Suggestions include Spanish chanada, a shortened form of charranada "trick, deceit;" or, less likely, German Schenigelei, peddler's argot for "work, craft," or the related German slang verb schinäglen. Another guess centers on Irish sionnach "fox."
shenanigans (n.) Look up shenanigans at
see shenanigan.
shend (n.) Look up shend at
"shame, disgrace" (obsolete or dialectal), Old English scand "ignominy, shame, confusion, disgrace; scandal, disgraceful thing; wretch, impostor, infamous man; bad woman," from the source of Old English scamu "shame" (see shame (n.)) + -þa, with change of -m- to -n- before a dental (compare Old Frisian skande, Dutch schande, Old High German scanda, German Schande "disgrace"). Also in early Modern English as a verb, shend (Old English scendan) "put to shame; blame, reproach; bring to ruin."

It was active in forming compounds, such as shendful (Old English scandful) "shameful," shendship "disgrace;" Old English scandhus "house of ill-fame," scandlic "shameful," scandlufiende "loving shamefully," scandword "obscene language").
Sheol (n.) Look up Sheol at
1590s, from Hebrew, literally "the underworld, Hades," of unknown origin. Used in R.V. in place of Hell in many passages.
shepherd (n.) Look up shepherd at
Old English sceaphierde, from sceap "sheep" (see sheep) + hierde "herder," from heord "a herd" (see herd (n.)). Similar formation in Middle Low German, Middle Dutch schaphirde, Middle High German schafhirte, German dialectal Schafhirt. Shepherds customarily were buried with a tuft of wool in hand, to prove on Doomsday their occupation and be excused for often missing Sunday church. Shepherd's pie is recorded from 1877.
shepherd (v.) Look up shepherd at
1790, "to herd sheep," from shepherd (n.). The metaphoric sense of "watch over or guide" is first recorded 1820. Related: Shepherded; shepherding.
shepherdess (n.) Look up shepherdess at
late 14c., from shepherd + -ess.
Sheraton Look up Sheraton at
severe style of late 18c. English furniture, 1883, from name of cabinetmaker Thomas Sheraton (1751-1806). The family name is from a place in Durham, late Old English Scurufatun (c.1040), probably "farmstead of a man called Skurfa" (an old Scandinavian personal name). The hotel chain dates from 1937 and has no obvious direct connection.
sherbet (n.) Look up sherbet at
c. 1600, zerbet, "drink made from diluted fruit juice and sugar," and cooled with fresh snow when possible, from Turkish serbet, from Persian sharbat, from Arabic sharba(t) "a drink," from shariba "he drank." Formerly also sherbert. Related to syrup, and compare sorbet.
sheriff (n.) Look up sheriff at
late Old English scirgerefa "representative of royal authority in a shire," from scir (see shire) + gerefa "chief, official, reeve" (see reeve). As an American county official, attested from 1660s; sheriff's sale first recorded 1798. Sheriff's tooth (late 14c.) was a common name for the annual tax levied to pay for the sheriff's victuals during court sessions.
Sherlock Look up Sherlock at
masc. proper name, literally "fair-haired," from Old English scir "bright" + locc "lock of hair." Slang for "private detective, perceptive person" (the latter often ironic) is attested from 1903, from A.C. Doyle's fictional character Sherlock Holmes (full name in this sense used from 1896; Holmes debuted in 1887 and was popular by 1892).
Sherman Look up Sherman at
type of U.S. medium tank used in World War II, 1942, named for U.S. Civil War Gen. William T. Sherman (1820-1891). The surname is from Old English scearra "shears" + mann "man;" hence "shearer of woolen garments."
Sherpa Look up Sherpa at
1847, from Tibetan, literally "dweller in an eastern country."
sherry (n.) Look up sherry at
kind of white wine, c. 1600, mistaken singular from sherris (1530s), from Spanish (vino de) Xeres "(wine from) Xeres," modern Jerez (Roman (urbs) Caesaris) in Spain, near the port of Cadiz, where the wine was made.
shet Look up shet at
1837 representing U.S. colloquial pronunciation of shut.
Shetland Look up Shetland at
group of islands north of Scotland, from Old Norse Hjaltland; in reference to a type of pony, 1801; as a breed of sheep, 1794.
shewbread (n.) Look up shewbread at
1530, Tyndale's word (Exodus xxv:30), based on or influenced by German schaubrot (in Luther), literally "show-bread," translating Latin panes propositiones, from Greek artai enopioi, from Hebrew lechem panim, the 12 loaves placed every Sabbath "before the Lord" on a table beside the altar of incense, from lechem "bread" + panim "face, presence." Old English translations used offring-hlafas.
shewel (n.) Look up shewel at
"something hung up to keep wild animals away," mid-13c., perhaps in Old English, from the same source as shy (adj.); a derivative of the verb which in German became scheuen "to scare."
Shia (n.) Look up Shia at
also Shiah, 1620s, a collective name for one of the two great Muslim sects, from Arabic shi'ah "partisans, followers, sect, company, faction" (from sha'a "to follow"). This is the proper use, but it commonly is used in English to mean "a Shiite." In Arabic, shi'ah is the name of the sect, shiya'iy is a member of the sect.

The branch of Islam that recognizes Ali, Muhammad's son-in-law, as the lawful successor of the Prophet; the minority who believed, after the death of the Prophet, that spiritual and political authority followed his family line, as opposed to the Sunni, who took Abu Bakr as the political leader of the community. The Arabic name is short for Shi'at Ali "the party of Ali."
shiatsu (n.) Look up shiatsu at
1967, from Japanese, literally "finger-pressure."
shibboleth (n.) Look up shibboleth at
late 14c., the Hebrew word shibboleth, meaning "flood, stream," also "ear of corn;" in Judges xii.4-6. It was the password used by the Gileadites to distinguish their own men from fleeing Ephraimites, because Ephraimites could not pronounce the -sh- sound. Hence the figurative sense of "watchword" (first recorded 1630s), which evolved by 1862 to "outmoded slogan still adhered to." A similar test-word was cicera "chick pease," used by the Italians to identify the French (who could not pronounce it correctly) during the massacre called the Sicilian Vespers (1282).
shield (n.) Look up shield at
Old English scield, scild "shield; protector, defense," literally "board," from Proto-Germanic *skelduz (source also of Old Norse skjöldr, Old Saxon skild, Middle Dutch scilt, Dutch schild, German Schild, Gothic skildus), from *skel- "divide, split, separate," from PIE root *(s)kel- (1) "to cut" (see scale (n.1)). Perhaps the notion is of a flat piece of wood made by splitting a log. Shield volcano (1911) translates German Schildvulkan (1910). Plate tectonics sense is from 1906, translating Suess (1888).
shield (v.) Look up shield at
Old English gescildan, from the root of shield (n.). Related: Shielded; shielding. Compare German scilden.
shift (n.1) Look up shift at
c. 1300, "a movement, a beginning," from shift (v.). This is the word in to make shift "make efforts" (mid-15c.). Sense of "change, alteration" is from 1560s. Sense of "means to an end" is from 1520s; hence "an expedient." Meaning "mechanism for changing gear in a motor vehicle" is recorded from 1914. Typewriter shift key is from 1893; shift-lock is from 1899.

Meaning "period of working time" (originally in a mine) is attested from 1809, with older sense "relay of horses" (1708); perhaps with sense influenced by a North Sea Germanic cognate word (such as North Frisian skeft "division, stratum," skaft "one of successive parties of workmen"). Similar double senses of "division" and "relay of workers" exist in Swedish skift, German schicht.
shift (n.2) Look up shift at
"body garment, underclothing," 1590s, originally used alike of men's and women's pieces, probably from shift (n.1), which was commonly used in reference to a change of clothes. In 17c., it began to be used as a euphemism for smock, and was itself displaced, for similar reasons of delicacy, in 19c. by chemise.
shift (v.) Look up shift at
Old English sciftan, scyftan "arrange, place, order," also "divide, partition; distribute, allot, share," from Proto-Germanic *skiftan (source also of Old Norse skipta "to divide, change, separate," Old Frisian skifta "to decide, determine, test," Dutch schiften "to divide, turn," German schichten "to classify," Schicht "shift"). This is said to be related to the source of Old English sceadan "divide, separate," (see shed (v.)).

c. 1200 as "to dispose; make ready; set in order, control," also intransitive, "take care of oneself." From c. 1300 as "to go, move, depart; move (someone or something), transport." Sense of "to alter, to change" appeared mid-13c. (compare shiftless). Meaning "change the gear setting of an engine" is from 1910; to shift gears in the figurative sense is from 1961. Related: Shifted; shifting.
shifter (n.) Look up shifter at
1550s, "one who shifts" in any way; agent noun from shift (v.). As a mechanical contrivance, from 1869; specifically of the gear-changing mechanism in a motor-vehicle, from 1910.
shiftless (adj.) Look up shiftless at
"wanting in resources or energy and ability to shift for oneself," 1580s, from shift (n.1) in the sense "resources" + -less. Related: Shiftlessly; shiftlessness.