9 Grammatical Pitfalls


[shelf] /ʃɛlf/
noun, plural shelves
[shelvz] /ʃɛlvz/ (Show IPA)
a thin slab of wood, metal, etc., fixed horizontally to a wall or in a frame, for supporting objects.
the contents of this:
a shelf of books.
a surface or projection resembling this; ledge.
Physical Geography.
  1. a sandbank or submerged extent of rock in the sea or river.
  2. the bedrock underlying an alluvial deposit or the like.
  3. continental shelf.
Archery. the upper part of the bow hand, on which the arrow rests.
off the shelf, readily available from merchandise in stock:
Any of those parts can be purchased off the shelf.
on the shelf, Informal.
  1. put aside temporarily; postponed.
  2. inactive; useless.
  3. without prospects of marriage, as after having broken an engagement.
Origin of shelf
1350-1400; Middle English; Old English scylfe; akin to Low German schelf shelf, Old Norse -skjalf bench
Related forms
shelflike, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for shelf
  • Explain that an ice shelf is a permanent, floating piece of ice that is attached to land.
  • Install the top shelf and fasten with two screws at each end.
  • The shutters, shelf bracket, and candelabra on the shelf were all garage-sale finds.
  • Most nondairy milks are sold in vacuum-sealed cartons and are shelf-stable for as long as a year.
  • Sitting atop the narrow shelf above the sink, imperfect teacups make good holders for air plants.
  • It can often be less expensive than buying a comparable off-the-shelf item.
  • Short shelf life in the supermarket so it's never as fresh as you want it.
  • Vera puts it on a shelf, where it will remain until someone calls or until she decides it's time to auction it off.
  • Time to take an afternoon, sift through the cookbooks on my shelf and get out of my cooking comfort zone and tackle new things.
  • It has an amazing shelf life, sometimes as much as a year.
British Dictionary definitions for shelf


noun (pl) shelves (ʃɛlvz)
a thin flat plank of wood, metal, etc, fixed horizontally against a wall, etc, for the purpose of supporting objects
something resembling this in shape or function
the objects placed on a shelf, regarded collectively: a shelf of books
a projecting layer of ice, rock, etc, on land or in the sea See also continental shelf
(mining) a layer of bedrock hit when sinking a shaft
(archery) the part of the hand on which an arrow rests when the bow is grasped
on the shelf, put aside or abandoned: used esp of unmarried women considered to be past the age of marriage
(transitive) (Austral, slang) to inform upon
Derived Forms
shelflike, adjective
Word Origin
Old English scylfe ship's deck; related to Middle Low German schelf shelf, Old English scylf crag
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 shelf

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 (cf. 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.

"sandbank," 1540s, of unknown origin. Related: Shelfy "abounding in sandbanks."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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shelf in Science
See continental shelf.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for shelf


Related Terms

gang bang

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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shelf in Technology

A public library of classes for the Eiffel language.

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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Idioms and Phrases with shelf
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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