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[shuh-lak] /ʃəˈlæk/
lac that has been purified and formed into thin sheets, used for making varnish.
a varnish (shellac varnish) made by dissolving this material in alcohol or a similar solvent.
a phonograph record made of a breakable material containing shellac, especially one to be played at 78 r.p.m.:
an LP that can hold nearly 10 times as much as the old shellac.
verb (used with object), shellacked, shellacking.
to coat or treat with shellac.
  1. to defeat; trounce.
  2. to thrash soundly.
Also, shellack.
1705-15; shell + lac1, translation of French laque en écailles lac in thin plates Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for shellac
  • The pork was extremely tender, almost soft, but under-seasoned under its tart-sweet shellac of barbecue sauce.
  • It is cheaper to use and more effective than shellac at preventing postharvest fruit decay without discoloring the fruit.
  • Fills holes and cracks with shellac or wax, using heated blade to melt and spread wax and shellac.
  • shellac was commonly applied to such objects in the nineteenth century to enhance or brighten images and text.
  • shellac-bonded wheels represent a small percentage of the bonded abrasives market.
British Dictionary definitions for shellac


/ʃəˈlæk; ˈʃɛlæk/
a yellowish resin secreted by the lac insect, esp a commercial preparation of this used in varnishes, polishes, and leather dressings
Also called shellac varnish. a varnish made by dissolving shellac in ethanol or a similar solvent
a gramophone record based on shellac
verb (transitive) -lacs, -lacking, -lacked
to coat or treat (an article) with a shellac varnish
(US, slang) to defeat completely
Derived Forms
shellacker, noun
Word Origin
C18: shell + lac1, translation of French laque en écailles, literally: lac in scales, that is, in thin plates
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 shellac

1713, from shell (n.) + lac (see lacquer). Translates French laque en écailles "lac in thin plates."


1876, from shellack (n.). The slang sense of "beat soundly" is 1920s, perhaps from the notion of shellac as a "finish." Shellacked "drunk" is from 1922 (cf. plastered). Related: Shellacking.

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



To pay; shell out: to shell at least a buck (1948+)

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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Encyclopedia Article for shellac

commercial resin marketed in the form of amber flakes, made from the secretions of the lac insect, a tiny scale insect, Laccifer lacca (see lac). Shellac is a natural thermoplastic; that is, a material that is soft and flows under pressure when heated but becomes rigid at room temperature. This property makes it useful either by itself or in combination with such fillers as flaked mica and asbestos in manufactured molding compositions, used for producing molded articles such as buttons

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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