Definition of shoulder in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈSHōldər/


1The upper joint of the human arm and the part of the body between this and the neck.
Example sentences
  • Occasionally it starts in one region such as the neck and shoulders and spreads over a period of time.
  • Sitting at a desk all day puts pressure on your lower back, neck and shoulders.
  • The neck, shoulder and wrist should be examined carefully in the patient with elbow pain.
1.1(In quadrupeds) the joint of the upper forelimb and the adjacent part of the back.
Example sentences
  • Given this, the limited range of motion at the shoulder and elbow is surprising.
  • Most solid-color donkeys have a dark dorsal stripe from mane to tail and a dark stripe across their shoulders.
  • In addition, the males display orange shoulders and the most forward individuals show almost jet-black heads.
1.2The part of a bird or insect at which the wing is attached.
Example sentences
  • A second bird dislocated a shoulder and his wing would never be strong enough to serve him in the wild.
  • A dark band down the shoulders contrasts with the white collar in flight, and the bird has narrow, pointed wings.
1.3A large cut of meat from the upper foreleg and shoulder blade of an animal: a shoulder of lamb
More example sentences
  • Some areas cook the entire hog, others just the pork shoulder, some make pulled pork.
  • From the hams and shoulders he will peel off the outside meat as dog food, but will keep some of the inside meat for his family.
  • The blacksmith, having just purchased a shoulder of mutton, is triumphantly waving it in the air.
1.4A part of a garment covering the shoulder: a jacket with padded shoulders
More example sentences
  • All that's needed is a canvas khaki green belt, or even a jacket with patch pockets and very defined shoulders.
  • Making alterations to other areas, such as the shoulders, back or lapels will change the intended design of the suit.
  • Conventionally sew the garment shoulder and side seams and press the seam allowances open.
1.5 (shoulders) The upper part of the back and arms: a tall youth with broad shoulders
More example sentences
  • They lathered up, scrubbed and rinsed off, tipping full basins of water across their backs, shoulders, chests and heads.
  • With chest thrown out and shoulders back, he walked with the vigour of a younger man.
  • She put each front paw on the person's shoulders and her back paws on the person's hips.
1.6 (shoulders) The human shoulders regarded as bearing responsibility or hardship or providing strength: all accounts place the blame squarely on his shoulders
More example sentences
  • We have a huge responsibility on our shoulders now and the sooner the loyalists are sorted out the better.
  • It was a tremendous amount of responsibility on my shoulders so I didn't disappoint them.
  • This means that there is a greater responsibility placed on the shoulders of such persons to be exemplars.
2A part of something resembling a shoulder in shape, position, or function: the shoulder of a pulley
More example sentences
  • The Optra has a wedge shape with clearly accentuated shoulders.
2.1A point at which a steep slope descends from a plateau or highland area: the shoulder of the hill sloped down
More example sentences
  • That's when Sofia draws your attention to a chalet perched on a shoulder of the slope, just over a mile away.
  • Steep gullies lined the shoulders; I didn't want to stray too far into them.
  • Pre-Hispanic agricultural terraces curve in graceful tiers around the southern and eastern shoulders of the steep slopes.
3A paved strip alongside a road for stopping on in an emergency.
Example sentences
  • My partner and I had parked on the shoulder of the highway and began to chat.
  • Because of the darkness of the night, Dawn nearly missed the black Jaguar parked on the shoulder of the road.
  • She made her way all the way across the freeway to the left shoulder.


1 [with object] Put (something heavy) over one’s shoulder or shoulders to carry: we shouldered our crippling backpacks and set off slowly up the hill
More example sentences
  • As it has turned out, the more appropriate implement to have been shouldered that day would have been shovels.
  • She shoulders a surprisingly long spear, perhaps to ward off the ardent king, although by that time she had been scarred by smallpox and he had mostly given up his advances.
  • Even the battalion chaplain, Steve Hommel, ended up shouldering an M16 rifle.
1.1Take on (a burden or responsibility): she shouldered the blame for the incident
More example sentences
  • Others before him have shouldered the burden of responsibility at a young age.
  • Equally, it is important to understand the way in which the military shoulder their duties and responsibilities during a war.
  • We have to be prepared to shoulder the responsibility and accept the consequences of knowing the truth.
take on (oneself), undertake, accept, assume;
bear, carry
2 [with object] Push (someone or something) out of one’s way with one’s shoulder: she shouldered him brusquely aside
More example sentences
  • He reached down to pick up his son, but Hoss shouldered him aside.
  • I walked past him calmly, but when I was at his side, I used all the force I could and shouldered him forcefully.
  • Nevertheless, on his way to escort them out of the club, one of the security personnel shouldered me aside and trod heavily on my foot.
push, shove, thrust, jostle, force, bulldoze, elbow
2.1 [no object] Move by shouldering someone or something out of one’s way: he shouldered past a woman with a baby he shouldered his way through the seething mass of children
More example sentences
  • He shouldered past the young men who never had a chance to claim the greatest prize.
  • Then he came back out and shouldered past Pearson so he could go in and clean himself up properly.
  • Columns of kids shouldering past me in the crowd rouse feelings in me hitherto unknown.



be looking over one's shoulder

Be anxious or insecure about a possible danger: takeovers are the thing that keeps suppliers looking over their shoulders
More example sentences
  • Staff could be looking over their shoulders, worried about their jobs, for months.
  • It will increase competition and everyone will be looking over their shoulders.
  • Some of the more established teams should be looking over their shoulders.

put one's shoulder to the wheel

Set to work vigorously.
Example sentences
  • However, people had put their shoulder to the wheel and they should now take a bow.
  • We hope that, if the president will put his shoulder to the wheel, we'll be able to do it this time.
  • Sure, I've tried to live a benign life, putting my shoulder to the wheel for peace.
get (down) to work, apply oneself, set to work, buckle down, roll up one's sleeves;
work hard, be diligent, be industrious, exert oneself

shoulder arms

Hold a rifle against the side of the body, barrel upward.
Example sentences
  • As the Oto and Missouria delegations approached, the soldiers came to attention, shouldered arms, dressed right and passed in review.

a shoulder to cry on

Someone who listens sympathetically to one’s problems.
Example sentences
  • I mean, where's the harm in a guy wanting a drinking buddy, a shoulder to cry on and a sympathetic ear?
  • Both of them said if I ever needed anything - a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen - to call them.
  • They offer us a shoulder to cry on and place a comforting arm around our shoulders to lighten the burden of sorrow and misfortune.

shoulder to shoulder

Side by side: everyone is bunched together shoulder to shoulder
More example sentences
  • Side by side they stood, shoulder to shoulder, and with their hats held to their chests.
  • I was shoulder to shoulder with Connor on one side, Drew on the other.
  • In battle, Dave says, he and his brothers-in-arms would have stood shoulder to shoulder, left side forward, shields locked, spears angled above the shield wall to jab at the enemy.
side by side, abreast, alongside (each other)
5.1Acting together toward a common aim; with united effort: we fought shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the country
More example sentences
  • Do they not stand there, shoulder to shoulder, united as a team for a united South Africa?
  • New York is a city of neighborhoods, of people working together, shoulder to shoulder.
  • One year ago I said to you that our country was correct to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States.
united, (working) together, jointly, in partnership, in collaboration, in cooperation, side by side, in alliance


Old English sculdor; related to Dutch schouder and German Schulter.

Words that rhyme with shoulder

beholder, boulder, folder, holder, moulder (US molder), polder, scolder, smoulder (US smolder), upholder, withholder

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: shoul·der

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