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Etymology 1[edit]

First attested use in 1625–1635, apparently from association with shark (verb), or otherwise directly from German Schurke (rogue, knave)[1].



shirk (third-person singular simple present shirks, present participle shirking, simple past and past participle shirked)

  1. (transitive) To avoid, especially a duty, responsibility, etc.; to stay away from.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:shirk
    • 1826, Julius Hare, Guesses at Truth by Two Brothers:
      the usual makeshift by which they try to shirk difficulties
    • 1989, “Gonna Find You”, in Operation Ivy (CD), performed by Operation Ivy, Lookout Records, →OCLC:
      Back in school, you ever get busted for trynna walk and have some administrator tell you / "Son, you can shirk your obligations, / and try to be different from your peers, / but responsibility, your future / is gonna find you!"
  2. (intransitive) To evade an obligation; to avoid the performance of duty, as by running away.
    If you have a job, don't shirk from it by staying off work.
    • September 7, 1830, Lord Byron, letter to Mr. Murray
      One of the cities shirked from the league.
    • 1992, Robert Gibbons, A Primer in Game Theory, Prentice-Hall, page 107:
      Shapiro and Stiglitz (1984) develop a dynamic model in which firms induce workers to work hard by paying high wages and threatening to fire workers caught shirking.
  3. (transitive) To procure by petty fraud and trickery; to obtain by mean solicitation.
    • 1635, Bishop Rainbow, Sermons:
      You that never heard the call of any vocation, [] that shirk living from others, but time from yourselves.


shirk (plural shirks)

  1. One who shirks, who avoids a duty or responsibility.
    Synonym: dodger
    • 1887, John Davis Billings, Hardtack and Coffee, Or, The Unwritten Story of Army Life, pages 101–102:
      I may add here that, coming as the soldiers did from all avocations and stations in life, these details for fatigue often brought together men few of whom had any practical knowledge of the work in hand; so that aside from the shirks, who could work but would not, there were other who would but could not, at least intelligently.

Etymology 2[edit]

Borrowed from Arabic شِرْك(širk).



shirk (uncountable)

  1. (Islam) The unforgivable sin of idolatry.
    • 2013, James R. White, What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur'an, Baker Books, →ISBN:
      A person can have committed shirk in their lifetime and still find forgiveness (especially by saying the Shahada and becoming a Muslim). The concept is that if one dies in this state (as a mushrik, an idolator, one who engages in and does not repent shirk), there is no forgiveness.
Related terms[edit]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2023), “shirk”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.