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From Late Middle English shethen (to put (a sword or knife) into a sheath, sheathe; to provide with a sheath; (figuratively) to have sexual intercourse) [and other forms], then:



sheathe (third-person singular simple present sheathes, present participle sheathing, simple past and past participle sheathed)

  1. (transitive) To put (something such as a knife or sword) into a sheath.
    Antonym: unsheathe
  2. (transitive) To encase (something) with a protective covering.
    Antonym: unsheathe
    • 1765, Edward Young, “A Vindication of Providence: Or, A True Measure of Human Life. In which the Passions are Considered in a New Light.”, in The Works in Prose, of the Reverend Edward Young, LL.D. [], London: Printed for P. Brown, H. Hill, and S. Payne, OCLC 1065028041, page 239:
      A chearful heart does good like a medicine, but envy corrodes like a poiſon; it is ſo ſharp, that it cuts the body which ſheathes it.
    • 1843, Ibn Khallikan, quoting Najm ad-din Mûsa al-Kamrâwi, “Abu ’l-Hasan al-Husri”, in [William] Mac Gukin de Slane, transl., Ibn Khallikan’s Biographical Dictionary: Translated from the Arabic (Oriental Translation Fund; no. 59), volume I, Paris: Printed for the Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland; sold by Benjamin Duprat, [] and Allen and Co, [], OCLC 570257159, page 243:
      When thou sheathest thy glances in thy eyelids, they inflict deadly wounds: what must they be when thou drawest them from their scabbards!
    • 1954, Alexander Alderson, chapter 17, in The Subtle Minotaur, London: John Gifford, OCLC 7313814, OL 12152304W:
      She sheathed her legs in the sheerest of the nylons that her father had brought back from the Continent, and slipped her feet into the toeless, high-heeled shoes of black suède.
  3. (transitive) Of an animal: to draw back or retract (a body part) into the body, such as claws into a paw.
    Antonym: unsheathe
    • 1687, [John Dryden], “The Third Part”, in The Hind and the Panther. A Poem, in Three Parts, 2nd edition, London: Printed for Jacob Tonson [], OCLC 460679539, page 88:
      So when the gen'rous Lyon has in ſight / His equal match, he rouſes for the fight; / But when his foe lyes proſtrate on the plain, / He ſheaths his paws, uncurls his angry mane; / And, plea'd with bloudleſs honours of the day, / Walks over, and diſdains th' inglorious Prey, [...]
    • 1750, [Noël-Antoine Pluche], “Birds. Dialogue XI.”, in Samuel Humphreys, transl., Spectacle de la Nature: Or, Nature Display’d. Being Discourses on Such Particulars of Natural History, as were Thought Most Proper to Excite the Curiosity, and Form the Minds of Youth. [] Translated from the Original French, 7th revised and corrected edition, London: Printed for R. Francklin, [], OCLC 960914618, page 183:
      We are told, that Dews and the Juices of Flowers are their [hummingbirds'] Food, which they extract with their little Tongue, whoſe Length exceeds that of their Bill, and ſerves them inſtead of a Trunk, which they contract and ſheathe in their Bill.
  4. (transitive, dated or literary, poetic, figurative) To thrust (a sharp object like a sword, a claw, or a tusk) into something.
    • 1593, [William Shakespeare], Venvs and Adonis, London: Imprinted by Richard Field, [], OCLC 837166078, verse 186; Shakespeare’s Venvs & Adonis: [], 4th edition, London: J[oseph] M[alaby] Dent and Co. [], 1896, OCLC 19803734, lines 1115–1116, page 65:
      And nuzzling in his flank, the loving swine / Sheathed unaware the tusk in his soft groin.
    • c. 1591–1592, William Shakespeare, “The Third Part of Henry the Sixt, []”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act V, scene v], page 171, column 1:
      Nay, neuer beare me hence, diſpatch me heere: / Here ſheath thy Sword, Ile pardon thee my death: [...]
    • 1708, Erasmus Roterodamus, “[A Sermon of Conforming and Reforming, Made to the Convocation at St. Paul’s Church in London, by John Colet, D.D. Dean of the Said Church, in the Year 1511.] The Life of Dr. Colet.”, in [John Dunton], editor, The Second Volume of The Phenix: Or, A Revival of Scarce and Valuable Pieces No Where to be Found but in the Closets of the Curious. [], volume II, number Phenix XVII, London: Printed for J[ohn] Morphew [], OCLC 42944820, § 29, page 25:
      [T]hey who either thro Hatred, or Ambition, or Covetouſneſs, do fight with evil Men, and ſo kill one another, fight not under the Banner of Chriſt, but the Devil; ſhewing [...] how difficult for ſuch to be in Charity (without which no Man ſhall ſee God) who ſheathe their Swords in their Brethens Bowels.
  5. (transitive, obsolete or rare, figurative) To abandon or cease (animosity, etc.)
  6. (transitive, obsolete) To provide (a sword, etc.) with a sheath.
  7. (transitive, medicine, obsolete) To relieve the harsh or painful effect of (a drug, a poison, etc.).
    • 1716, John Radcliffe, “[An Appendix to Dr. Radcliffe’s Recipe’s.] Ramose, Flexile, Smooth Medicines. [Observations.]”, in Pharmacopoeia Radcliffeana: Or, Dr. Radcliff’s Prescriptions, Faithfully Gather’d from His Original Recipes. [], 2nd corrected edition, London: Printed for Charles Rivington, [], OCLC 519060203, pages 540 and 541:
      [page 540] Theſe ſmooth and oily Med'cines act by ſheathing acrimonious Salts in the Blood, and preventing Inconveniences from 'em; and by relaxing the Fibres, and hence widening 'em. [...] [page 541] [They] are convenient in Coughs, from thin and ſharp Rheums, becauſe they ſheathe the Salts that gall the Lungs.
    • 1738 December, C. Mortimer, “VI. An Abstract by C. Mortimer, M.D. Secr[etary of the] R[oyal] S[ociety] of an Inaugural Dissertation Published at Wittemberg 1736. by Dr. Abraham Vater, F.R.S. Concerning the Cure of the Bite of a Viper, Cured by Sallad-oil.”, in Philosophical Transactions. Giving Some Account of the Present Undertakings, Studies, and Labours, of the Ingenious, in Many Considerable Parts of the World, volume XXXIX, number 451, London: Printed for T. Woodward, [] ; and C. Davis [] ; printers to the Royal Society, OCLC 630046584, page 443:
      He concludes this Diſſertation, by endeavouring to explain the Manner of its [olive oil's] operating, which he attributes to its fat inviſcating Nature, whereby it ſheathes the Spicula of the Poiſon.
    • 1747, Tho[mas] Short, Medicina Britannica: Or A Treatise on Such Physical Plants, as are Generally to be Found in the Fields and Gardens in Great-Britain: Containing a Particular Account of Their Nature, Virtues, and Uses. [], 2nd edition, London: Printed for R. Manby and H. Shute Cox, [], OCLC 14304749, paragraph 73, page 66:
      Comfry Root (Symphytum) is a principal Vulnerary; it is very mucilaginous and thickening, its clammy Juice ſheathes the Sharpneſs of the Humours; [...]


Alternative forms[edit]

Derived terms[edit]


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  1. 1.0 1.1 shēthen, v.” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ shēth(e, n.(1)” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007; compare “sheathe, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1914; “sheathe, v.” in Lexico,; Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ -en, suf.(3)” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  4. ^ shēth(e, n.(1)” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007; “sheath, n.1”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1914; “sheath, n.” in Lexico,; Oxford University Press.