General English

General Science

  • noun a hard outer covering of an animal, egg or seed
  • noun a piece of software which operates between the user and the operating system, often to try and make the operating system more friendly or easier to use


  • noun the outer covering of something such as an aircraft fuselage

Cars & Driving


  • structural framework.
  • In stressed-skin construction, the outer skin applied over the frame members.
  • Any hollow construction when accomplished with a very thin curved plate or slab.
  • The outer portion of a hollow masonry unit when laid.


  • verb to fail to take a possible catch
    Citation ‘They proceeded to lose the toss and drop five catches on the first day, three of them shelled by the hapless Imran Farhat at slip’ (Andrew Miller, Cricinfo Magazine August 2006)


  • Any of the several orbits around the nucleus of an atom, in which electrons may be found. Each successive orbit further from the nucleus has greater energy. Each shell may only contain a specific number of electrons, and those in the same shell have the same energy. Electrons in the outer shell produce a net transport of electric charge under the influence of an electric field. Also called electron shell.
  • The user interface for a command interpreter, which is a part of a computer's operating system that accepts a given number of commands for the performance of programmed tasks. Also called command shell.
  • A hard outer case, such as that of an audio or video cassette.
  • The outer layer or housing of something, such as the envelope of an electric lamp or electron tube.


  • noun the hard outside part of an egg or a nut
  • verb to take something out of a shell, or be taken out of a shell


  • noun an artillery projectile consisting of a metal case filled with high explosive, which is designed to explode on impact with the ground or when detonated by a fuse
  • verb to fire artillery shells at a target

Real Estate

  • noun the basic framework of a building, especially while under construction or after damage by fire


  • noun a dollar. This usage may recall the use of cowries and other sea shells as currency, or come from the verb to ‘shell out’ (in which shell refers to the shell or pod containing seeds). Clams is a synonym.
  • noun a beer, beercan. This rare sense of the word may conceivably draw a comparison between empty beer cans and discarded (ammunition) shell cases.

Origin & History of “shell”

Shell goes back ultimately to the Germanic base *skal- ‘divide, separate’, which also produced English scale, scalp, school (of fish), shale, shelter, shield, shoal (of fish), skill, and skol. Its underlying meaning is hence a ‘covering that splits off or is peeled off’. Its immediate Germanic ancestor was *skaljō, which also produced Dutch schel and Norwegian skjæl. Shellac (18th c.) is a compound of shell and lac ‘lacquer, varnish’ (a word of Sanskrit origin, of which lacquer is a derivative), and is a direct translation of French laque en écailles ‘lac (melted) in thin plates’.