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[shohl-der] /ˈʃoʊl dər/
the part of each side of the body in humans, at the top of the trunk, extending from each side of the base of the neck to the region where the arm articulates with the trunk.
Usually, shoulders. these two parts together with the part of the back joining them.
a corresponding part in animals.
the upper foreleg and adjoining parts of a sheep, goat, etc.
the joint connecting the arm or the foreleg with the trunk.
a shoulderlike part or projection.
Ornithology. the bend of a bird's wing, between the hand and the forearm, especially when distinctively colored, as in the red-shouldered hawk, Buteo lineatus.
a cut of meat that includes the upper joint of the foreleg.
Often, shoulders. Informal. capacity for bearing responsibility or blame or sympathizing with other people:
If you want to tell me your troubles, I have broad shoulders.
a steplike change in the contour of an object, as for opposing or limiting motion along it or for an abutment.
  1. the end surface or surfaces of a piece from which a tenon or tenons project.
  2. an inclined and raised surface, as on a joggle post, for receiving and supporting the foot of a strut or the like.
Fortification. the angle of a bastion between the face and the flank.
Printing. the flat surface on a type body extending beyond the base of the letter or character.
the part of a garment that covers, or fits over, the shoulder.
(in leather manufacturing) that part of the hide anterior to the butt.
either of the two edges or borders along a road, especially that portion on which vehicles can be parked in emergencies.
Compare soft shoulder.
Furniture. knee (def 6).
verb (used with object)
to push with or as if with the shoulder, especially roughly:
to shoulder someone aside.
to take upon, support, or carry on or as if on the shoulder or shoulders:
He shouldered his knapsack and walked on.
to assume as a responsibility:
to shoulder the expense.
verb (used without object)
to push with or as if with the shoulder:
to shoulder through a crowd.
cry on someone's shoulder, to reveal one's problems to another person in order to obtain sympathy:
Don't cry on my shoulder—this mess is your own fault.
put one's shoulder to the wheel, to work energetically toward a goal; put forth effort:
If we put our shoulders to the wheel, we'll be able to finish the job soon.
rub shoulders with, to come into association with; mingle with:
As a social worker in one of the worst slum areas, she rubs shoulders with the poor and the helpless.
shoulder arms, Military.
  1. to place a rifle muzzle upward on the right or left shoulder, with the buttstock in the corresponding hand.
  2. the command to shoulder arms.
shoulder to shoulder, side by side; with united effort:
The volunteers worked shoulder to shoulder with the natives in harvesting the crops.
straight from the shoulder, without evasion; directly; candidly:
The lawyer told him straight from the shoulder that his case was weak.
before 900; (noun) Middle English sholder, s(c)hulder, Old English sculdor; cognate with Dutch schouder, German Schulter; (v.) Middle English shulderen, derivative of the noun
Related forms
outshoulder, verb (used with object)
reshoulder, verb (used with object)
unshouldered, adjective
21. bear, undertake, carry. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for shoulders
  • He wrote of dog-headed people who communicated by barking, and people with no heads at all, their eyes in their shoulders.
  • Tourists, almost invariably wearing colorful harem pants, brush shoulders with locals.
  • Cave bears had wider heads than today's bears, and powerful shoulders and forelimbs.
  • We actually have to carry those trees out on our shoulders.
  • The highway heads upward, wrapping itself around the shoulders and dipping into the valleys of the mountains.
  • We rocked our shoulders, snapped our fingers, danced in our seats and sang along as act after act lit up the stage.
  • Adjust the heights of the posts so the shoulders of the notches are level with each other.
  • He who rides on the giant's shoulders sees further than he who carries him.
  • shoulders are usually corned, or salted and smoked, though sometimes cooked fresh.
  • He always has a company of twenty-five or thirty cavalry, with sabres drawn and held upright over their shoulders.
British Dictionary definitions for shoulders


the part of the vertebrate body where the arm or a corresponding forelimb joins the trunk: the pectoral girdle and associated structures
the joint at the junction of the forelimb with the pectoral girdle
a cut of meat including the upper part of the foreleg
(printing) the flat surface of a piece of type from which the face rises
(tanning) the portion of a hide covering the shoulders and neck of the animal, usually including the cheeks
the part of a garment that covers the shoulder
anything that resembles a shoulder in shape or position
the strip of unpaved land that borders a road
(engineering) a substantial projection or abrupt change in shape or diameter designed to withstand thrust
(photog) the portion of the characteristic curve of a photographic material indicating the maximum density that can be produced on the material
(jewellery) the part of a ring where the shank joins the setting
a shoulder to cry on, a person one turns to for sympathy with one's troubles
(informal) give someone the cold shoulder
  1. to treat someone in a cold manner; snub
  2. to ignore or shun someone
(informal) put one's shoulder to the wheel, to work very hard
rub shoulders with, See rub (sense 11)
shoulder to shoulder
  1. side by side or close together
  2. in a corporate effort
(transitive) to bear or carry (a burden, responsibility, etc) as if on one's shoulders
to push (something) with or as if with the shoulder
(transitive) to lift or carry on the shoulders
(military) shoulder arms, to bring the rifle vertically close to the right side with the muzzle uppermost and held at the trigger guard
Word Origin
Old English sculdor; related to Old High German sculterra
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 shoulders



Old English sculdor "shoulder," from West Germanic *skuldro (cf. Middle Dutch scouder, Dutch schouder, Old Frisian skoldere, Middle Low German scholder, Old High German scultra, German Schulter), of unknown origin, perhaps related to shield (n.). Meaning "edge of the road" is attested from 1933. Cold shoulder (Neh. ix:29) translates Latin humerum recedentum dare in Vulgate (but see cold shoulder). Shoulder-length, of hair, is from 1951.


c.1300, "to push with the shoulder," from shoulder (n.). Meaning "take a burden" first recorded 1580s. The military sense is from 1590s. Related: Shouldered; shouldering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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shoulders in Medicine

shoulder shoul·der (shōl'dər)

  1. The joint connecting the arm with the torso.

  2. The part of the human body between the neck and upper arm.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for shoulders

shot in the dark


A wild guess or try; an attempt that has little chance of success

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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Idioms and Phrases with shoulders
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Encyclopedia Article for shoulders


in anatomy, the joint between the arm, or forelimb, and the trunk, together with the adjacent tissue, particularly the tissue over the shoulder blade, or scapula. The shoulder, or pectoral, girdle is composed of the clavicles (collarbones) and the scapulae (shoulder blades). In humans the clavicles join the sternum (breastbone) medially and the scapulae laterally; the scapulae, however, are joined to the trunk only by muscles. In many cursorial (running) mammals the clavicles are reduced or no longer present, which permits free movement of the humerus (upper arm bone) in a forward direction. The major joint of the shoulder is the glenohumeral joint, a ball-and-socket joint in which the humerus is recessed into the scapula. The flexibility of the shoulder has permitted various locomotor adaptations, such as digging (in moles), running (in antelopes), brachiation (in gibbons), and flight (in birds).

Learn more about shoulder with a free trial on
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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