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From a merger of Middle English shutel, shotel, schetel, schettell, schyttyl, scutel (bar; bolt), from Old English sċyttel, sċutel (bar; bolt), equivalent to shut +‎ -le, and Middle English shutel, schetil, shotil, shetel, schootyll, shutyll, schytle, scytyl (missile; projectile; spear), from Old English sċytel, sċutel (dart, arrow), from Proto-Germanic *skutilaz (compare Old Norse skutill (harpoon)), from *skut- (project) (see shoot). Name for loom weaving instrument, recorded from 1338, is from a sense of being "shot" across the threads. The back-and-forth imagery inspired the extension to "passenger trains" in 1895, aircraft in 1942, and spacecraft in 1969, as well as older terms such as shuttlecock.


  • Rhymes: -ʌtəl
  • (file)


shuttle (plural shuttles)

  1. (weaving) The part of a loom that carries the woof back and forth between the warp threads.
    • 1611, King James Version, Job 7:6:
      My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and are spent without hope.
    • 1638, George Sandys, "A Paraphrase upon Job":
      Like shuttles through the loom, so swiftly glide
      My feather'd hours, and all my hopes deride!.
  2. The sliding thread holder in a sewing machine, which carries the lower thread through a loop of the upper thread, to make a lock stitch.
  3. A transport service (such as a bus or train) that goes back and forth between two places, sometimes more.
  4. Such a transport vehicle; a shuttle bus; a space shuttle.
    • 2004, Dawn of the Dead, 1:14:20:
      You're saying we take the parking shuttles, reinforce them with aluminum siding and then head to the gun store where our friend Andy plays some cowboy-movie, jump-on-the-wagon bullshit.
  5. Any other item that moves repeatedly back and forth between two positions, possibly transporting something else with it between those points (such as, in chemistry, a molecular shuttle).
  6. A shuttlecock.
  7. A shutter, as for a channel for molten metal.

Usage notes[edit]

Strictly speaking, a shuttle goes back and forth between two places. However, the term is also used more generally for short-haul transport that may be one-way or have multiple stops (including shared ride or loop), particularly for airport buses; compare loose usage of limousine.



shuttle (third-person singular simple present shuttles, present participle shuttling, simple past and past participle shuttled)

  1. (intransitive) To go back and forth between two places.
  2. (transitive) To transport by shuttle or by means of a shuttle service.


Derived terms[edit]





shuttle m (plural shuttles, diminutive shuttletje n)

  1. a space shuttle
  2. a shuttlecock
    Synonyms: pluimbal, vederbal





shuttle m (invariable)

  1. space shuttle