General English

General Science

  • noun a layer of rock or ice which juts out


  • noun a horizontal flat surface attached to a wall or in a cupboard on which items for sale are displayed


  • Any horizontally mounted board, slab, or other flat-surfaced device upon which objects can be stored, supported, or displayed.

Information & Library Science

  • noun a horizontal piece of wood or metal attached to a wall, or in a bookcase or cupboard

Origin & History of “shelf”

Shelf appears to have been borrowed from middle Low German schelf ‘shelf’. this may have come from the Germanic base *skelf- ‘split’, which also produced Old English scylfe ‘partition’, the word’s underlying meaning therefore being a ‘piece of split wood used for standing things on’. The derivative shelve dates from the 16th century.