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From Middle English schuldre, sholder, shulder, schulder, from Old English sculdra, sculdor (shoulder), from Proto-West Germanic *skuldru (shoulder), of uncertain origin. Perhaps related to Proto-Germanic *skelduz (shield), see shield. Cognate with Old Frisian skuldere (shoulder) (West Frisian skouder (shoulder)), Middle Low German scholder (shoulder), Low German Schuller (shoulder), Dutch schouder (shoulder), German Schulter (shoulder), Danish skulder (shoulder), Swedish skuldra (shoulder).



shoulder (plural shoulders)

  1. The part of an animal's body between the base of the neck and forearm socket.
    1. The part of the human torso forming a relatively horizontal surface running away from the neck.
      The parrot was sitting on Steve's shoulder.
      • 1879, R[ichard] J[efferies], chapter 1, in The Amateur Poacher, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., [], OCLC 752825175:
        But then I had the flintlock by me for protection. ¶ There were giants in the days when that gun was made; for surely no modern mortal could have held that mass of metal steady to his shoulder. The linen-press and a chest on the top of it formed, however, a very good gun-carriage; and, thus mounted, aim could be taken out of the window [].
      • 1910, Emerson Hough, chapter I, in The Purchase Price: Or The Cause of Compromise, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, OCLC 639762314, page 0025:
        With just the turn of a shoulder she indicated the water front, where, at the end of the dock on which they stood, lay the good ship, Mount Vernon, river packet, the black smoke already pouring from her stacks. In turn he smiled and also shrugged a shoulder.
    2. (anatomy) The joint between the arm and the torso, sometimes including the surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
    3. A cut of meat comprising the upper joint of the foreleg and the surrounding muscle.
    4. The portion of a garment where the shoulder is clothed.
  2. Anything forming a shape resembling a human shoulder.
  3. (topography) A shelf between two levels.
    1. A part of a road where drivers may stop in an emergency; a hard shoulder.
      He stopped the car on the shoulder of the highway to change the flat tire.
    2. The portion of a hill or mountain just below the peak.
    3. A lateral protrusion of a hill or mountain.
    4. The angle of a bastion included between the face and flank.
    5. An abrupt projection which forms an abutment on an object, or limits motion, etc., such as the projection around a tenon at the end of a piece of timber.
  4. (printing) The flat portion of type that is below the bevelled portion that joins up with the face.
  5. (of an object) The portion between the neck and the body.
    1. (music) The rounded portion of a stringed instrument where the neck joins the body.
    2. The rounded portion of a bottle where the neck meets the body.
    3. (firearms) The angled section between the neck and the main body of a cartridge.
  6. (figuratively) That which supports or sustains; support.
  7. The part of a key between the cuts and the bow.
    Parts of a Yale lock-type key

Derived terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


shoulder (third-person singular simple present shoulders, present participle shouldering, simple past and past participle shouldered)

  1. (transitive) To push (a person or thing) using one's shoulder.
    • (Can we date this quote by Edmund Spenser and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      As they the earth would shoulder from her seat.
    • (Can we date this quote by Rowe and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      Around her numberless the rabble flowed, / Shouldering each other, crowding for a view.
  2. (transitive) To put (something) on one's shoulders.
    • 1922, A. M. Chisholm, A Thousand a Plate
      Early in the morning they shouldered light packs, took their rifles, crossed the big draw, and entered the timber where was the deadfall.
    • 2008 June, Men's Health, The World's Simplest Workout, volume 23, number 5, page 120:
      Like a power clean, shouldering a sandbag — lifting it from the floor to your shoulder in one explosive movement — requires a coordinated effort from your core, upper body, and legs.
  3. (transitive) To place (something) against one's shoulders.
    • 2004, Chris Christian, Larry Sterett, Rick Sapp, The Gun Digest Book of Trap & Skeet Shooting, page 221:
      All three sets are nicely sculptured along the bottom to prevent interference when shouldering your gun with proper shooting form.
  4. (transitive, figuratively) To bear a burden, as a financial obligation.
    • 1950, Colin Arthur Cooke, Corporation, Trust and Company: An Essay in Legal History, page 111:
      The shareholders were then shouldering a burden of liability out of proportion to their mere ownership of theoretical fractions of the business.
  5. (transitive, figuratively) To accept responsibility for.
    shoulder the blame
  6. (transitive) To form a shape resembling a shoulder.
    • 1977, Roger W. Autor Bolz, Production Processes: The Productivity Handbook, page 12-81:
      allowance at the bottom of blind bores for the chamfered tip of the reamer will obviate additional operations with shouldering or bottoming reamers to completely finish the entire length of a hole.
  7. (intransitive) To move by or as if by using one's shoulders.
    • (Can we date this quote by Rudyard Kipling and provide title, author's full name, and other details?)
      A yoke of the great sulky white bullocks [] came shouldering along together.
    • 2003, Harrison E. Salisbury, The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad, page 304:
      He had seen them in the beer halls, shouldering up to the head of the queues
    • 2008, David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas, page 483:
      Mr. Wagstaff strolled with me along the wooded arm of land shouldering northwards from Bethlehem Bay.
  8. (transitive) To round and slightly raise the top edges of slate shingles so that they form a tighter fit at the lower edge and can be swung aside to expose the nail.
  9. (intransitive) To slope downwards from the crest and whitewater portion of a wave.


Further reading[edit]