There are 2 definitions of shelf in English:


Syllabification: shelf
Pronunciation: /SHelf

noun (plural shelves /SHelvz/)

1A flat length of wood or rigid material, attached to a wall or forming part of a piece of furniture, that provides a surface for the storage or display of objects.
More example sentences
  • The pieces were displayed on shelves, propped against the wall, emphasizing their three-dimensionality.
  • The painters, who had promised me two days notice to remove everything from walls, shelves and large pieces of furniture, instead gave me a few hours.
  • Free-standing shelves provide excellent storage and can be taken with you when you move.
ledge, sill, bracket, rack; mantelpiece; shelving
1.1A ledge of rock or protruding strip of land.
More example sentences
  • There were, broadly speaking, three tracts of relevant land: there is the rock shelf, which was tidal…
  • A dusty pile of sheet rock tumbled from one of the high, unsteady shelves and landed beside Barbara.
  • I pull the rope bag out and drop it on the ledge in front of my shins, padding the rock shelf so I can lean into it.
1.2A submarine bank, or a part of the continental shelf.
More example sentences
  • This problem with the sediment trap technique is probably restricted to the continental slope and shelf and will not occur over abyssal depths.
  • Recruitment patterns of these species along the shelf were then used to infer water-mass distributions along the shelf.
  • Zebra sharks are primarily bottom dwellers that live in warm shallow inland waters, of continental and island shelves.


off the shelf

Not designed or made to order but taken from existing stock or supplies: off-the-shelf software packages
More example sentences
  • This is the software you buy shrink-wrapped off the shelf or download from the Internet onto your computer.
  • You can buy software specific to an industry and specific to one need, off the shelf, without having to buy a whole package.
  • So in all probability, they took the stadium plans off the shelf.

on the shelf

(Of people or things) no longer useful or desirable: an injury that has kept him on the shelf
More example sentences
  • And it is the self-centred ones who tend to get left on the shelf and so are the main frequenters of singles venues.
  • Until the court case settled, this IPO is on the shelf, possibly forever.
  • Keep in mind that plans are not something to write and put on the shelf.



Pronunciation: /-ˌfo͝ol/
noun (plural shelffuls)
More example sentences
  • There was not a shelfful of books on, say, how to give a talk in public, as there is now; there was usually none.
  • This enormous book of 552 pages, closely printed, is almost a shelfful of books collected in one volume.
  • These things tend to discourage purchase - who wants to have a shelfful of dead ideas?


More example sentences
  • Running a trot line seems a fairly sane way to go about snagging a big fish, but in more shallow runs of the river farther downstream where the limestone has eroded under the bank to form shelf-like caves some guys take the sport a step farther.
  • The nose contains shelf-like structures called turbinates, which help trap particles entering the nasal passages.
  • Podial basins are closed cup-like or shelf-like depressions shared by sequential ambulacrals or adjacent ambulacrals and adambulacrals.


Middle English: from Middle Low German schelf; related to Old English scylfe 'partition', scylf 'crag'.

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Word of the day punctum
Pronunciation: ˈpʌŋ(k)təm
a small, distinct point

There are 2 definitions of shelf in English:


Line breaks: shelf

Entry from British & World English dictionary

Australian/NZ informal

noun (plural shelfs)

An informer.


[with object] Back to top  
Inform on (someone): he never shelfed a man in his life


1930s (as a noun): probably from the phrase on the shelf 'out of the way'.

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