Definitions

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

  • transitive v. To avoid or neglect (a duty or responsibility).
  • intransitive v. To avoid work or duty.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To avoid, especially a duty, responsibility, etc.; to stay away from.
  • n. one who shirks
  • n. the unforgivable sin of idolatry

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. One who lives by shifts and tricks; one who avoids the performance of duty or labor.
  • intransitive v. To live by shifts and fraud; to shark.
  • intransitive v. To evade an obligation; to avoid the performance of duty, as by running away.
  • transitive v. To procure by petty fraud and trickery; to obtain by mean solicitation.
  • transitive v. To avoid; to escape; to neglect; -- implying unfaithfulness or fraud.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To practise mean or artful tricks; live by one's wits; shark.
  • To avoid unfairly or meanly the performance of some labor or duty.
  • To procure by mean tricks; shark.
  • To avoid or get off from unfairly or meanly; slink away from: as, to shirk responsibility.
  • n. One who lives by shifts or tricks. See shark.
  • n. One who seeks to avoid duty.

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

  • v. avoid (one's assigned duties)
  • v. avoid dealing with

Etymologies

Perhaps from German Schurke, scoundrel; akin to Old High German fiurscurgo, demon : fiur, fire + scurigen, to stir up.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
First attested use in 1625 – 1635, apparently from association with shark (verb form), or from German Schurke ("rogue, knave"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

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  • "We, as a nation, cannot afford to shirk responsibility any longer,"

    March 30, 2009