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sheer1

[sheer] /ʃɪər/
adjective, sheerer, sheerest.
1.
transparently thin; diaphanous, as some fabrics:
sheer stockings.
2.
unmixed with anything else:
We drilled a hundred feet through sheer rock.
3.
unqualified; utter:
sheer nonsense.
4.
extending down or up very steeply; almost completely vertical:
a sheer descent of rock.
5.
British Obsolete. bright; shining.
adverb
6.
clear; completely; quite:
ran sheer into the thick of battle.
7.
perpendicularly; vertically; down or up very steeply.
noun
8.
a thin, diaphanous material, as chiffon or voile.
Origin of sheer1
1175-1225
1175-1225; Middle English scere, shere, schere free, clear, bright, thin; probably < Old Norse skǣrr; change of sk- > s(c)h- perhaps by influence of the related Old English scīr (E dial. shire clear, pure, thin); cognate with German schier, Old Norse skīr, Gothic skeirs clear; see shine1
Related forms
sheerly, adverb
sheerness, noun
Can be confused
shear, sheer.
Synonyms
2. mere, simple, pure, unadulterated. 3. absolute, downright. 4. abrupt, precipitous. 6. totally, entirely.
Antonyms
1. opaque.

sheer2

[sheer] /ʃɪər/
verb (used without object)
1.
to deviate from a course, as a ship; swerve.
verb (used with object)
2.
to cause to sheer.
3.
Shipbuilding. to give sheer to (a hull).
noun
4.
a deviation or divergence, as of a ship from its course; swerve.
5.
Shipbuilding. the fore-and-aft upward curve of the hull of a vessel at the main deck or bulwarks.
6.
Nautical. the position in which a ship at anchor is placed to keep it clear of the anchor.
Origin
1620-30; special use of sheer1; compare sense development of clear
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for sheer
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • To suppose that the weak must prevail because it was weak was sheer sentimentality.

    The Dust Flower Basil King
  • On them it is forced from without, by sheer pressure of circumstance.

  • It seemed now inevitable that sheer force must decide between them.

    Wood Magic Richard Jefferies
  • Mary stood silent for a moment from sheer amazement over the change.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • It was only sheer shame which hindered the ladies from turning back from the threshold.

    Froth Armando Palacio Valds
British Dictionary definitions for sheer

sheer1

/ʃɪə/
adjective
1.
perpendicular; very steep: a sheer cliff
2.
(of textiles) so fine as to be transparent
3.
(prenominal) absolute; unmitigated: sheer folly
4.
(obsolete) bright or shining
adverb
5.
steeply or perpendicularly
6.
completely or absolutely
noun
7.
any transparent fabric used for making garments
Derived Forms
sheerly, adverb
sheerness, noun
Word Origin
Old English scīr; related to Old Norse skīrr bright, Gothic skeirs clear, Middle High German schīr

sheer2

/ʃɪə/
verb foll by off or away (from)
1.
to deviate or cause to deviate from a course
2.
(intransitive) to avoid an unpleasant person, thing, topic, etc
noun
3.
the upward sweep of the deck or bulwarks of a vessel
4.
(nautical) the position of a vessel relative to its mooring
Word Origin
C17: perhaps variant of shear
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 sheer
adj.

c.1200, "exempt, free from guilt" (e.g. Sheer Thursday, the Thursday of Holy Week); later schiere "thin, sparse" (c.1400), from Old English scir "bright, clear, gleaming; translucent; pure, unmixed," and influenced by Old Norse cognate scær "bright, clean, pure," both from Proto-Germanic *skeran- (cf. Old Saxon skiri, Old Frisian skire, German schier, Gothic skeirs "clean, pure"), from PIE root *(s)ker- (1) "to cut" (see shear (v.)).

Sense of "absolute, utter" (sheer nonsense) developed 1580s, probably from the notion of "unmixed;" that of "very steep" (a sheer cliff) is first recorded 1800, probably from notion of "continued without halting." Meaning "diaphanous" is from 1560s. As an adverb from c.1600.

v.

1620s, "deviate from course" (of a ship), of obscure origin, perhaps from Dutch scheren "to move aside, withdraw, depart," originally "to separate" (see shear (v.)). Related: Sheered; shearing. As a noun from 1660s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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