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[shak-uh l] /ˈʃæk əl/
a ring or other fastening, as of iron, for securing the wrist, ankle, etc.; fetter.
a hobble or fetter for a horse or other animal.
the U -shaped bar of a padlock, one end of which is pivoted or sliding, the other end of which can be released, as for passing through a staple, and then fastened, as for securing a hasp.
any of various fastening or coupling devices.
Often, shackles. anything that serves to prevent freedom of procedure, thought, etc.
verb (used with object), shackled, shackling.
to put a shackle or shackles on; confine or restrain by a shackle or shackles.
to fasten or couple with a shackle.
to restrain in action, thought, etc., as by restrictions; restrict the freedom of.
before 1000; (noun) Middle English schakle, schakyl(le); Old English sceacel fetter; cognate with Low German schakel hobble, Old Norse skǫkull wagon pole, (v.) late Middle English schaklyn, derivative of the noun
Related forms
shackler, noun
1. chain, manacle, handcuff, gyve, bilboes. 5. obstacle, obstruction, impediment, encumbrance. 6. restrict, fetter, chain, handcuff, hobble. 8. trammel, impede, slow, stultify, dull.
6, 8. liberate, free. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for shackles
  • They had leg shackles on, and they had a belt around the waist with a chain coming out that was handcuffed to them.
  • Anybody who is led to an execution chamber has shackles on their hands and feet.
  • My leg shackles were not removed for more than two years.
  • It is thus extremely important that shackles are procured against recognised standards applicable in the region of operation.
  • Some of the inferior shackles were discovered on the swing ropes at some facilities.
  • Don't use sleeve shackles to connect two or more eyes.
  • If available, the manufacturer's recommended safe working loads for shackles shall not be exceeded.
  • If the manufacturers' recommended safe working loads for shackles are available, they shall not be exceeded.
  • Plaintiff had been brought to the prison in handcuffs and leg shackles.
  • Defendant first argues that he deserves a new trial because some potential jurors might have seen him in shackles.
British Dictionary definitions for shackles


(often pl) a metal ring or fastening, usually part of a pair used to secure a person's wrists or ankles; fetter
(often pl) anything that confines or restricts freedom
a rope, tether, or hobble for an animal
a U-shaped bracket, the open end of which is closed by a bolt (shackle pin), used for securing ropes, chains, etc
verb (transitive)
to confine with or as if with shackles
to fasten or connect with a shackle
Derived Forms
shackler, noun
Word Origin
Old English sceacel; related to Dutch schakel, Old Norse skokull wagon pole, Latin cingere to surround
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 shackles



Old English sceacel "shackle, fetter," probably also in a general sense "a link or ring of a chain," from Proto-Germanic *skakula- (cf. Middle Dutch, Dutch schakel "link of a chain, ring of a net," Old Norse skökull "pole of a carriage"), of uncertain origin. According to OED, the common notion of "something to fasten or attach" makes a connection with shake unlikely. Figurative use from early 13c. Related: Shackledom "marriage" (1771); shackle-bone "the wrist" (1570s).


mid-15c., from shackle (n.). Figurative use from 1560s. Related: Shackled; shackling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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