Definition of SHELL

SHELL Noun and Verb

Shell can function as both a noun and a verb, representing different concepts. As a noun, it refers to a hard outer covering or structure that encloses and protects the softer interior of an organism or object. As a verb, it denotes the act of removing or shedding the outer covering or shell.

SHELL as a noun

As a noun, a shell is a protective outer layer or covering that provides defense or support for the enclosed contents. In biology, shells are commonly found in various organisms, such as mollusks, crustaceans, and turtles, serving as armor or housing for vital organs. Additionally, shells can refer to man-made structures, such as artillery shells or architectural shells.

Biological Shells: In the natural world, shells serve diverse functions depending on the organism they belong to. Mollusks, such as snails, clams, and oysters, produce calcium carbonate shells to protect their soft bodies from predators and environmental hazards. These shells can exhibit intricate patterns, shapes, and textures, reflecting the species’ evolutionary adaptations and ecological niches.

Crustacean Shells: Crustaceans, including crabs, lobsters, and shrimp, also possess shells known as exoskeletons, which provide structural support and protection. The exoskeletons of crustaceans are composed of chitin, a tough, fibrous substance that offers resistance against predators and physical damage. Molting, the process of shedding old shells to accommodate growth, is a crucial aspect of crustacean development.

Man-Made Shells: In engineering and construction, shells refer to curved, lightweight structures with a thin, continuous surface that spans large areas without the need for internal supports. Architectural shells are often used in the design of roofs, domes, and pavilions, showcasing innovative use of materials and geometric forms to create visually striking and structurally efficient spaces.

SHELL as a verb

As a verb, shell refers to the act of removing or discarding the outer covering or shell of something. This action can involve extracting edible contents from protective coverings, as in shelling nuts or peeling eggs. Additionally, shelling can describe the process of bombarding or striking targets with artillery shells in warfare.

Nut Shelling: One common usage of shelling as a verb is in the context of preparing nuts for consumption. Shelling involves cracking open the hard outer shell of nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, or pistachios, to access the nutritious kernels inside. Various tools and techniques, including nutcrackers and mechanical shelling machines, are used to facilitate this process.

Artillery Shelling: In military terminology, shelling refers to the launching of explosive projectiles, known as artillery shells, from cannons or artillery guns. Artillery shells are used in combat operations to target enemy positions, fortifications, or infrastructure. The impact of artillery shells can cause significant damage and casualties, making shelling a potent weapon of warfare.

In conclusion, shell encompasses both a noun and a verb, representing different aspects of protective coverings and actions related to their removal or deployment. Shells serve essential functions in biology, engineering, and warfare, providing protection, structural support, and visual aesthetics. Understanding the diverse applications of shell enhances our appreciation for its significance in nature, technology, and human endeavors.

Examples of SHELL in a sentence

SHELL as a noun in a sentence

  • The hermit crab found a new home in a vacant seashell.
  • They collected seashells along the beach as souvenirs.
  • The artillery barrage left behind fragments of exploded shells.
  • The turtle retreated into its protective shell when threatened.
  • The oysters were harvested for their valuable shells.
  • The company installed bulletproof shells on their vehicles for added protection.
  • The eggshell cracked open, revealing the chick inside.
  • The snail left a trail of slime behind as it moved its shell.

SHELL as a verb in a sentence

  • She carefully shelled the peanuts before roasting them.
  • The soldiers shelled the enemy positions with artillery fire.
  • He struggled to shell the hard-boiled eggs without breaking them.
  • The children shelled the peas for dinner.
  • The company decided to shell out for a new advertising campaign.
  • They shelled out a considerable sum of money for the antique vase.
  • The popcorn machine automatically shells and pops the kernels.
  • The crab deftly shelled the clam to get at the meat inside.

Origin of SHELL

The word shell has a complex etymology with various meanings and uses throughout history. Here’s a brief overview:

  • Old English Roots: The word shell can be traced back to Old English, where it was spelled “scell” or “scealu.” In Old English, it generally referred to the hard outer covering of various organisms, such as nuts, eggs, and certain sea creatures.
  • Proto-Germanic Origin: The Old English word “scell” likely evolved from the Proto-Germanic word “*skaljo,” which also meant shell or “husk.” This Proto-Germanic root has connections to other Germanic languages as well.
  • Indo-European Root: The Proto-Germanic “skaljo” itself derives from the Proto-Indo-European root “skel-“, which means “to cut” or “to split.” This root is also thought to be the origin of words related to shells in various Indo-European languages.
  • Semantic Evolution: Over time, the meaning of shell expanded beyond just the hard outer covering of nuts or eggs to include the hard outer coverings of various animals (like turtles or crustaceans) and objects (like artillery shells). This expansion reflects the semantic evolution of the word as it adapted to different contexts and uses.
  • Military Usage: The term shell gained significant prominence in military contexts, particularly with the development of artillery. In this context, a shell refers to a projectile containing an explosive or other damaging substance, designed to be fired from a cannon or artillery piece.

Overall, the etymology of shell illustrates its evolution from its ancient roots as a word referring to hard coverings to its modern usage in various contexts, including biology, architecture, and warfare.


  • Casing
  • Covering
  • Exterior
  • Carapace
  • Husk
  • Encasement
  • Sheath
  • Pod


  • Core
  • Nucleus
  • Interior
  • Centre
  • Kernel
  • Heart
  • Pulp
  • Essence


  • Seashell
  • Shellfish
  • Tortoiseshell
  • Shellacking
  • Shell script
  • Shell command
  • Shell company
  • Shell shock

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