Definition of shaft in English:

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Pronunciation: /ʃɑːft/


1A long, narrow part or section forming the handle of a tool or club, the body of a spear or arrow, or similar: the shaft of a golf club the shaft of a feather
More example sentences
  • The shaft of long handled tools should be a light wood, such as ash, and should be unpainted and free of knots.
  • Maintaining a good posture, rotate the upper body to the right so that the shaft of the club is in front of you.
  • Move down the shaft of each section of hair and continue tying knots from the root of your hair to about 2 inches from the ends.
pole, stick, rod, staff, shank, upright;
handle, hilt, butt, stock, stem
historical pikestaff, thill
rare helve
technical rachis
1.1An arrow or spear.
Example sentences
  • Her heart soared with the swift flash of the shaft as it flew from the bow.
1.2A column, especially the main part between the base and capital.
Example sentences
  • After all, the column, with its capital, shaft, and base, is designed after the human figure.
  • There, although little had been reported by earlier scholars, we recorded Byzantine sculpture, an inscribed Byzantine tombstone, and several column shafts and capitals.
  • The freestanding column shafts are wrapped in black glazed tiles and the bases have a mosaic finish.
1.3A long cylindrical rotating rod for the transmission of motive power in a machine.
Example sentences
  • The water wheel axle shaft still turned and made a squeaky noise but Don could hear the footsteps of someone on the floor above him.
  • The gearbox gets over both problems by being two half-gearboxes in one case, with two clutches and two transmission shafts, one inside the other.
  • As far as that goes I am willing to believe what I am told: that escalators are big, complicated machines packed into tight shafts and there aren't many hours when you can work on them.
1.4Each of the pair of poles between which a horse is harnessed to a vehicle: the shafts of a horse-drawn wagon
2A ray of light or bolt of lightning: a shaft of sunlight
More example sentences
  • In an annual commemorative ritual tied to sun and sky, a shaft of light will illuminate the void between the time of the first and second attacks.
  • Illuminated by a shaft of light from the ceiling, the altar glowed with brimming power, standing immaculate in the centre of the hall.
  • She departed the command center and stepped into a shaft of white light in the atrium outside.
ray, beam, gleam, streak, pencil, finger, bar
literary lance
2.1A sudden flash of a quality or feeling: a shaft of inspiration
More example sentences
  • At that a sudden shaft of fear struck through her abdomen, and she was tempted to retch or scream.
  • Almost immediately she tripped and fell over, hitting the ground heavily, the impact forcing the breath from her body and sending a shaft of agony through her belly.
  • It shook him to the core with a ghostly shaft of fear impaling his quivering heart.
2.2A remark intended to be witty, wounding, or provoking: he directs his shafts against her
cutting remark, barb, gibe, taunt, sting
informal dig
3A long, narrow, typically vertical hole that gives access to a mine, accommodates a lift in a building, or provides ventilation.
Example sentences
  • By this time the mine had three shafts, many large stopes and hundreds of metres of drives.
  • Newspapers lift up the vertical shaft of the alley like small printed angels.
  • Athena kneeled down and lifted up what appeared to be only a ventilation shaft, but was in fact an access panel.
mineshaft, tunnel, passage, pit, adit, downcast, upcast;
borehole, bore;
duct, air shaft, well, light well, flue, vent
rare winze
4 vulgar slang A man’s penis.
4.1 (the shaft) North American informal Harsh or unfair treatment: the executives continue to raise their pay while the workers get the shaft
More example sentences
  • So, shareholders make a bundle, but U.S. workers don't get a dime - indeed, they get the shaft.
  • Now Stone gets the soft bed in the hospital and I get the shaft?
  • Now, consumers were not the only people to get the shaft in this arrangement.


1 [no object, with adverbial of direction] (Of light) shine in beams: brilliant sunshine shafted through the skylight
More example sentences
  • Light shafted out of the box like the fall of a sword - a bright, white, ruthless light.
  • A small light shafted from a hole in the ceiling, which actually was a road above.
  • The bright purple and red colors from the sunset shafted through the hundreds of small square panes in the windows, and dropped onto the cracked asphalt, which was growing gnarled and full of weeds.
2 [with object] vulgar slang (Of a man) have sexual intercourse with (a woman).
2.1 informal Treat (someone) harshly or unfairly: I suppose she’ll get a lawyer and I’ll be shafted
More example sentences
  • The perception that she was shafted is ludicrous.
  • Cassie narrowed her eyes knowing full well she was shafted by the owner.
  • And both men and women [musicians] are being shafted as a result.



[in combination]: a long-shafted harpoon


Old English scæft, sceaft 'handle, pole', of Germanic origin; related to Dutch schaft, German Schaft, and perhaps also to sceptre. Early senses of the verb (late Middle English) were 'fit with a handle' and 'send out shafts of light'.

Words that rhyme with shaft

abaft, aft, craft, daft, draft, draught, engraft, graft, haft, kraft, raft, understaffed, unstaffed, waft

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: shaft

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