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[shawrt-ning, shawr-tn-ing] /ˈʃɔrt nɪŋ, ˈʃɔr tn ɪŋ/
butter, lard, or other fat, used to make pastry, bread, etc., short.
Phonetics. the act, process, or an instance of making or becoming short.
  1. the act or process of dropping one or more syllables from a word or phrase to form a shorter word with the same meaning, as in forming piano from pianoforte or phone from telephone.
  2. clipped form.
Origin of shortening
1535-45; shorten + -ing1


[shawr-tn] /ˈʃɔr tn/
verb (used with object)
to make short or shorter.
to reduce, decrease, take in, etc.:
to shorten sail.
to make (pastry, bread, etc.) short, as with butter or other fat.
Sports. choke (def 8).
verb (used without object)
to become short or shorter.
(of odds) to decrease.
1505-15; short + -en1
Related forms
shortener, noun
overshorten, verb
preshorten, verb (used with object)
reshorten, verb
undershorten, verb (used with object)
unshorten, adjective
1. condense, lessen, limit, restrict. Shorten, abbreviate, abridge, curtail mean to make shorter or briefer. Shorten is a general word meaning to make less in extent or duration: to shorten a dress, a prisoner's sentence. The other three terms suggest methods of shortening. To abbreviate is to make shorter by omission or contraction: to abbreviate a word. To abridge is to reduce in length or size by condensing, summarizing, and the like: to abridge a document. Curtail suggests deprivation and lack of completeness because of omitting some part: to curtail an explanation. 5. contract, lessen. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for shortening
  • One combines butter and shortening for flavor and texture balance.
  • Still, there is more to this shortening of the future than dates.
  • shortening days signal the coming of cold weather to broadleaf trees.
  • Students should consider changes to the weather and the shortening of the days.
  • It may be put in soup kettle, or lean part may be chopped and utilized for meat cakes, fat tried out and clarified for shortening.
  • As a matter of fact, the marked shortening of the menu is in informal dinners and at the home table of the well-to-do.
  • Using an electric mixer, cream together shortening and sugar until smooth.
  • Add the shortening, cutting it in with a pastry blender.
  • The remainder was achieved by shortening the working week or year.
  • As the useful life of the car has been extended, manufacturers have focused on shortening its fashionable life.
British Dictionary definitions for shortening


butter, lard, or other fat, used in a dough, cake mixture, etc, to make the mixture short


to make or become short or shorter
(transitive) (nautical) to reduce the area of (sail)
(transitive) to make (pastry, bread, etc) short, by adding butter or another fat
(gambling) to cause (the odds) to lessen or (of odds) to become less
Derived Forms
shortener, noun
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 shortening

1540s, "action of making short," verbal noun from shorten. Meaning "butter or other fat used in baking" (1796) is from shorten in the sense "make crumbly" (1733), from short (adj.) in the secondary sense of "easily crumbled" (early 15c.), which perhaps arose via the notion of "having short fibers." This is the short in shortbread and shortcake.



1510s, "make shorter;" 1560s, "grow shorter," from short (adj.) + -en (1); the earlier form of the verb was simply short, from Old English sceortian "to grow short, become short; run short, fail," gescyrtan "to make short."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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