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See also: shoe-horn


Shoehorn made of horn
A metal shoehorn.
Shoehorn in use
This racing car has a 5.1 litre V8 aero-engine shoehorned into its lightweight cyclecar frame
Tate's Avenue bridge, Belfast. The engineer had a hard job "shoehorning" the new footbridge into an existing street.
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Alternative forms[edit]


shoe +‎ horn


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈʃuːˌhɔː(ɹ)n/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈʃuːˌhɔɹn/
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shoehorn (plural shoehorns)

  1. A smooth tool that assists in putting the foot into a shoe, by sliding the heel in after the toe is in place. This reduces discomfort and damage to the back of the shoe. By slipping it into the back of the shoe behind the heel, the user prevents the heel from squashing down the back of the shoe and causing difficulty; instead the heel slides down the smooth shoehorn, which then comes out easily once the foot is in place.
  2. (derogatory) Anything by which a transaction is facilitated; a medium.
    • 1935, Don Herold, Going to the Movies:
      I was about sixty feet ahead of this film in many spots, which speaks rather poorly for it. And I resented the heartthrobs which were planted in my bosom with a shoehorn via the "little child" process.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Spectator to this entry?)
  3. (obsolete) Anything which draws on or allures; an inducement.
    • 1652, Richard Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy:
      Now you cannot but observe, that most of our fine young Ladies readily fall in with the Direction of the Graver sort, to retain in their Service, by some small Encouragement, as great a Number as they can of supernumerary and insignificant Fellows, which they use like Whiflers, and commonly call Shoeing-Horns. These are never designed to know the length of the Foot, but only when a good Offer comes to whet and spur him up to the Point. Nay 'tis the Opinion of that grave Lady, Madam Matchwell, that it's absolutely convenient for every prudent Family to have several of these Implements about the House, to clap on as occasion serves, and that every Spark ought to produce a Certificate of his being a Shoeing-Horn, before he be admitted as a Shoe. A certain Lady, whom I could name, if it was necessary, has at present more Shoeing-Horns of all Sizes, Countries, and Colours, in her Service, than ever she had new Shoes in her Life.
  1. (Can we find and add a quotation of Beaumont and Fletcher to this entry?)




shoehorn (third-person singular simple present shoehorns, present participle shoehorning, simple past and past participle shoehorned)

  1. (literally) To use a shoehorn.
  2. (transitive, figuratively) To force (something) into (a tight space); to squeeze (something) into (a schedule, etc); to exert great effort to insert or include (something); to include (something) despite potent reasons not to.
    I shoehorned his dozen burgeoning bags into the backseat of my tiny car, and off we went.
    His staff want to shoehorn an extra stop into his already packed campaigning schedule.