Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A flat, usually rectangular structure composed of a rigid material, such as wood, glass, or metal, fixed at right angles to a wall or other vertical surface and used to hold or store objects.
  • n. The contents or capacity of such a structure.
  • n. Something, such as a projecting ledge of rock or a balcony, that resembles such a structure.
  • n. A reef, sandbar, or shoal.
  • n. Bedrock.
  • idiom off the shelf From ready-made merchandise in stock: supplies that were available off the shelf.
  • idiom on the shelf In a state of disuse.
  • idiom on the shelf Unemployed.
  • idiom on the shelf Out of circulation.
  • idiom on the shelf Retired.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A flat, rigid, rectangular structure, fixed at right angles to a wall, and used to support, store or display objects.
  • n. The capacity of such an object; as, a shelf of videos.
  • n. A projecting ledge that resembles such an object.
  • n. A reef, shoal or sandbar.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A flat tablet or ledge of any material set horizontally at a distance from the floor, to hold objects of use or ornament.
  • n. A sand bank in the sea, or a rock, or ledge of rocks, rendering the water shallow, and dangerous to ships.
  • n. A stratum lying in a very even manner; a flat, projecting layer of rock.
  • n. A piece of timber running the whole length of a vessel inside the timberheads.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Same as shelve.
  • n. A thin slab or plank, a piece of marble, slate, wood, or other material, generally long and narrow, fixed horizontally to a wall, and used for supporting small objects; in general, a narrow flat surface, horizontal or nearly so, and raised above a larger surface, as of a floor or the ground.
  • n. In ship-building, an inner timber, or line of timbers, following the sheer of the vessel, and bolted to the inner side of ribs, to strengthen the frame and sustain the deck-beams. See cut under beam, 3.
  • n. The charging-bed of a furnace.
  • n. In scissors, the bottom of the countersink which receives the head of the screw uniting the two blades
  • n. A rock, ledge of rocks, reef, or sand-bank in the sea, rendering the water shallow and dangerous to ships; a reef or shoal; a shallow spot.
  • n. A projecting layer or ledge of rock on land.
  • n. The bed-rock; the surface of the bed-rock; the rock first met with after removing or sinking through the superficial detritus.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a projecting ridge on a mountain or submerged under water
  • n. a support that consists of a horizontal surface for holding objects

Etymologies

Middle English, probably from Middle Low German schelf.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Probably from Old English scylfe ("deck of a ship"); distantly related to sculpt, carve and shell. (Wiktionary)

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