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A pair of shovels


From Middle English shovele, schovel, showell, shoule, shole (> English dialectal shoul, shool), from Old English scofl (shovel), from Proto-Germanic *skuflō, *skūflō (shovel), equivalent to shove +‎ -el (instrumental/agent suffix).

Cognate with Scots shuffle, shule, shuil (shovel), Saterland Frisian Sköifel (shovel), West Frisian skoffel, schoffel (hoe, spade, shovel), Dutch schoffel (spade, hoe), Low German Schüfel, Schuffel (shovel), German Schaufel (shovel), Danish skovl (shovel), Swedish skyffel, skovel (shovel), Icelandic skófla (shovel).



shovel (plural shovels)

  1. A hand tool with a handle, used for moving portions of material such as earth, snow, and grain from one place to another, with some forms also used for digging. Not to be confused with a spade, which is designed solely for small-scale digging and incidental tasks such as chopping of small roots.
    • 1943 July and August, T. Lovatt Williams, “Some Reminiscences of the Footplate—1”, in Railway Magazine, pages 233-234:
      It was said that such train crews kept a spare shovel on board because, on numerous occasions, the beginner had not only zealously thrown coal into the firebox but had let the shovel go as well.
  2. A mechanical part of an excavator with a similar function.
  3. (US) A spade.
  4. Short for shovel hat.

Derived terms[edit]


  • Fiji Hindi: sabbal
  • Marshallese: jabōļ


Further reading[edit]


shovel (third-person singular simple present shovels, present participle shoveling or shovelling, simple past and past participle shoveled or shovelled)

  1. To move materials with a shovel.
    The workers were shovelling gravel and tarmac into the pothole in the road.
    After the blizzard, we shoveled the driveway for the next two days.
    I don't mind shoveling, but using a pickaxe hurts my back terribly.
    • 1944 May and June, “When the Circle was Steam Operated”, in Railway Magazine, page 134:
      Off again, a fierce light now trailing out behind us from the open furnace door, lighting up the fireman as he shovelled more coal on to the furnace, [...].
  2. (transitive, figuratively) To move with a shoveling motion.
    Already late for work, I shovelled breakfast into my mouth as fast as possible.
    • 2011 December 29, Keith Jackson, “SPL: Celtic 1 Rangers 0”, in Daily Record[1]:
      The keeper then seemed to claw it out with fabulous reflexes only for TV replays to show the ball had most probably crossed the line before Forster had shovelled it away.

Related terms[edit]


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