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[sheym] /ʃeɪm/
the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another:
She was overcome with shame.
susceptibility to this feeling:
to be without shame.
disgrace; ignominy:
His actions brought shame upon his parents.
a fact or circumstance bringing disgrace or regret:
The bankruptcy of the business was a shame. It was a shame you couldn't come with us.
verb (used with object), shamed, shaming.
to cause to feel shame; make ashamed:
His cowardice shamed him.
to publicly humiliate or shame for being or doing something specified (usually used in combination): kids who've been fat-shamed and bullied;
dog-shaming pictures of canines chewing up shoes.
to drive, force, etc., through shame:
He shamed her into going.
to cover with ignominy or reproach; disgrace.
for shame!, you should feel ashamed!:
What a thing to say to your mother! For shame!
put to shame,
  1. to cause to suffer shame or disgrace.
  2. to outdo; surpass:
    She played so well she put all the other tennis players to shame.
Origin of shame
before 900; (noun) Middle English; Old English sc(e)amu; cognate with German Scham, Old Norse skǫmm; (v.) Middle English schamen, shamien to be ashamed, Old English sc(e)amian, derivative of the noun
Related forms
shamable, shameable, adjective
shamably, shameably, adverb
half-shamed, adjective
outshame, verb (used with object), outshamed, outshaming.
unshamable, adjective
unshameable, adjective
unshamed, adjective
1. Shame, embarrassment, mortification, humiliation, chagrin designate different kinds or degrees of painful feeling caused by injury to one's pride or self-respect. Shame is a painful feeling caused by the consciousness or exposure of unworthy or indecent conduct or circumstances: One feels shame at being caught in a lie. It is similar to guilt in the nature and origin of the feeling. Embarrassment usually refers to a feeling less painful than that of shame, one associated with less serious situations, often of a social nature: embarrassment over breaking a teacup at a party. Mortification is a more painful feeling, akin to shame but also more likely to arise from specifically social circumstances: his mortification at being singled out for rebuke. Humiliation is mortification at being humbled in the estimation of others: Being ignored gives one a sense of humiliation. Chagrin is humiliation mingled with vexation or anger: She felt chagrin at her failure to remember her promise. 5. humiliate, mortify, humble, abash, embarrass.
1. pride, self-esteem, self-respect. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for shame
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It would have seemed like a shame to go back by sea, and miss all this.

    A Jolly Fellowship Frank R. Stockton
  • "Oh, you were mean—mean—to shame me so," and floods of tears came again.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • How it puts one to shame to hear such repentance with such a confession!'

    The Heir of Redclyffe Charlotte M. Yonge
  • When one thinks of all the fine work he might have accomplished, it seems a shame.

    Ballads of a Bohemian Robert W. Service
  • The crimes of his brother at first filled Timoleon with shame and sorrow.

British Dictionary definitions for shame


a painful emotion resulting from an awareness of having done something dishonourable, unworthy, degrading, etc
capacity to feel such an emotion
ignominy or disgrace
a person or thing that causes this
an occasion for regret, disappointment, etc: it's a shame you can't come with us
put to shame
  1. to disgrace
  2. to surpass totally
(South African, informal)
  1. an expression of sympathy
  2. an expression of pleasure or endearment
verb (transitive)
to cause to feel shame
to bring shame on; disgrace
(often foll by into) to compel through a sense of shame: he shamed her into making an apology
name and shame, See name (sense 17)
Derived Forms
shamable, shameable, adjective
Word Origin
Old English scamu; related to Old Norse skömm, Old High German skama
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for shame

Old English scamu, sceomu "feeling of guilt or disgrace; confusion caused by shame; disgrace, dishonor, insult, loss of esteem or reputation; shameful circumstance, what brings disgrace; modesty; private parts," from Proto-Germanic *skamo (cf. Old Saxon skama, Old Norse skömm, Swedish skam, Old Frisian scome, Dutch schaamte, Old High German scama, German Scham). The best guess is that this is from PIE *skem-, from *kem- "to cover" (covering oneself being a common expression of shame).

Until modern times English had a productive duplicate form in shand. An Old Norse word for it was kinnroði, literally "cheek-redness," hence, "blush of shame." Greek distinguished shame in the bad sense of "disgrace, dishonor" (aiskhyne) from shame in the good sense of "modesty, bashfulness" (aidos). To put (someone or something) to shame is mid-13c. Shame culture attested by 1947.


Old English scamian "be ashamed, blush, feel shame; cause shame," from the root of shame (n.). Cf. Old Saxon scamian, Dutch schamen, Old High German scamen, Danish skamme, Gothic skaman, German schämen sich. Related: Shamed; shaming.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for shame


Related Terms


The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with shame


In addition to the idiom beginning with
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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