from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Thin, fine, and translucent: synonym: airy.
  • adjective Completely such, without qualification or exception.
  • adjective Free from admixture or adulterants; unmixed.
  • adjective Considered or operating apart from anything else.
  • adjective Almost perpendicular; steep: synonym: steep.
  • adverb Almost perpendicularly.
  • adverb Completely; altogether.
  • noun One that is sheer, such as a curtain.
  • intransitive & transitive verb To swerve or cause to swerve from a course.
  • noun A swerving or deviating course.
  • noun The upward curve or amount of upward curve of the longitudinal lines of a ship's hull as viewed from the side.
  • noun The position in which a ship at anchor is maintained in order to keep it clear of the anchor.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • An obsolete spelling of shear.
  • Pure; clear; bright; shining.
  • Uncombined with anything else; simple; mere; bare; by itself.
  • Absolute; utter; downright: as, sheer nonsense or ignorance; sheer waste; sheer stupidity.
  • Straight up or straight down; perpendicular; precipitous; unobstructed: as, a sheer descent.
  • Very thin and delicate; diaphanous: especially said of cambric or muslin.
  • Nautical, to swerve or deviate from a line or course; turn aside or away, as for the purpose of avoiding collision or other danger: as, to sheer off from a rock.
  • Quite; right; straight; clean.
  • noun The rise from a horizontal plane of the longitudinal lines of a ship as seen in looking along its side.
  • noun The position in which a ship at single anchor is placed to keep her clear of the anchor.
  • noun The paint-strake or sheer-strake of a vessel.
  • noun A curving course or sweep; a deviation or divergence from a particular course.
  • To make pure; clear; purify.
  • noun A light scaffold, usually with three inclined legs, on which miners stand in drilling to get above the drill-rod.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Bright; clear; pure; unmixed.
  • adjective Very thin or transparent; -- applied to fabrics.
  • adjective Being only what it seems to be; obvious; simple; mere; downright.
  • adjective Stright up and down; vertical; prpendicular.
  • transitive verb obsolete To shear.
  • intransitive verb To decline or deviate from the line of the proper course; to turn aside; to swerve.
  • intransitive verb to turn or move aside to a distance; to move away.
  • intransitive verb to approach obliquely.
  • adverb obsolete Clean; quite; at once.
  • noun The longitudinal upward curvature of the deck, gunwale, and lines of a vessel, as when viewed from the side.
  • noun The position of a vessel riding at single anchor and swinging clear of it.
  • noun A turn or change in a course.
  • noun Shears See Shear.
  • noun (Shipbuilding) a long strip of wood to guide the carpenters in following the sheer plan.
  • noun a boom slanting across a stream to direct floating logs to one side.
  • noun See Shear hulk, under Hulk.
  • noun (Shipbuilding) a projection of the lines of a vessel on a vertical longitudinal plane passing through the middle line of the vessel.
  • noun (Naut.) an iron rod lashed to the shrouds just above the dead-eyes and parallel to the ratlines.
  • noun (Shipbuilding) the strake under the gunwale on the top side.
  • noun (Naut.) to deviate from sheer, and risk fouling the anchor.


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

[Obsolete shere, thin, clear, partly from Middle English shir, bright, clear (from Old English scīr) and partly from Middle English skir, bright, clean (from Old Norse skærr).]

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

[Probably partly from Low German scheren, to move to and fro (said of boats), and partly from Dutch scheren, to withdraw; see sker- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Old Norse skírr ("pure, bright, clear"), cognate with Danish skær, German schier ("sheer"), Dutch schier ("almost"), Gothic 𐍃𐌺𐌴𐌹𐍂𐍃 (skeirs, "clear, lucid"). Outside Germanic, cognate to Albanian hirrë ("whey, serum").


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word sheer.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • 3. Shipbuilding. to give sheer to (a hull).


    4. a deviation or divergence, as of a ship from its course; swerve.

    5. Shipbuilding. the fore-and-aft upward curve of the hull of a vessel at the main deck or bulwarks.

    6. Nautical. the position in which a ship at anchor is placed to keep it clear of the anchor.

    December 24, 2008

  • "See cut under forebody." --Cent. Dict.

    September 10, 2012