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This page has 19 definitions of shaft in English and Middle English. Shaft is a noun and verb. Examples of how to use shaft in a sentence are shown. Also define these 59 related words and terms: arrow, long, narrow, central, body, spear, javelin, handle, tool, pole, animal, harnessed, vehicle, driveshaft, motorized, rear-wheel drive, axle, beam, ray, light, floor, dusky, axis, feather, lacrosse, lacrosse stick, vertical, inclined, passage, sunk, earth, lift, elevator, liftshaft, ventilation, heating, conduit, air, duct, architecture, column, pillar, particularly, capital, pedestal, chamber, blast furnace, fuck over, cause, harm, especially, deceit, treachery, equip, fuck, have, sexual, intercourse, and schaft.


Spear shafts
Drive shaft
Shaft of peacock tail feather
Lacrosse stick (the shaft runs from 4 to 5)
Elevator shaft


From Middle English schaft, from Old English sċeaft, from Proto-West Germanic *skaft, from Proto-Germanic *skaftaz. Cognate with Dutch schacht, German German Schaft, Swedish skaft.



shaft (plural shafts)

  1. (obsolete) The entire body of a long weapon, such as an arrow.
    • c. 1343-1400,, Geoffrey Chaucer:
      His sleep, his meat, his drink, is him bereft, / That lean he wax, and dry as is a shaft.
    • c. 1515-1568,, Roger Ascham:
      A shaft hath three principal parts, the stele, the feathers, and the head.
  2. The long, narrow, central body of a spear, arrow, or javelin.
    Her hand slipped off the javelin's shaft towards the spearpoint and that's why her score was lowered.
    • 1879, R[ichard] J[efferies], chapter II, in The Amateur Poacher, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., [], OCLC 752825175:
      Orion hit a rabbit once; but though sore wounded it got to the bury, and, struggling in, the arrow caught the side of the hole and was drawn out. []. Ikey the blacksmith had forged us a spearhead after a sketch from a picture of a Greek warrior; and a rake-handle served as a shaft.
    • Spear definition
      A long stick with a sharp tip used as a weapon for throwing or thrusting, or anything used to make a thrusting motion. (1 of 9 spear definitions)
  3. (by extension) Anything cast or thrown as a spear or javelin.
    • c. 1608-1674,, John Milton:
      And the thunder, / Winged with red lightning and impetuous rage, / Perhaps hath spent his shafts.
    • c. 1752-1821,, Vicesimus Knox:
      Some kinds of literary pursuits [] have been attacked with all the shafts of ridicule.
  4. Any long thin object, such as the handle of a tool, one of the poles between which an animal is harnessed to a vehicle, the driveshaft of a motorized vehicle with rear-wheel drive, an axle, etc.
    • 1967, Sleigh, Barbara, Jessamy, 1993 edition, Sevenoaks, Kent: Bloomsbury, →ISBN, page 57:
      While Kitto chatted to William, Jessamy looked with interest at the dog cart. It had a pair of high wooden wheels with two seats back to back above. Between the shafts the bay mare tossed her head and fidgeted on the cobbles.
    • 2013 July-August, Lee S. Langston, “The Adaptable Gas Turbine”, in American Scientist:
      Turbines have been around for a long time—windmills and water wheels are early examples. The name comes from the Latin turbo, meaning vortex, and thus the defining property of a turbine is that a fluid or gas turns the blades of a rotor, which is attached to a shaft that can perform useful work.
    • Handle definition
      The part of an object which is (designed to be) held in the hand when used or moved. (1 of 12 handle definitions)
    • Pole definition
      Originally, a stick; now specifically, a long and slender piece of metal or (especially) wood, used for various construction or support purposes. (1 of 9 pole definitions)
    • Harnessed definition
      simple past tense and past participle of harness
    • Driveshaft definition
      A shaft used to transmit rotary motion.
    • Motorized definition
      simple past tense and past participle of motorize
  5. A beam or ray of light.
    Isn't that shaft of light from that opening in the cave beautiful?
    • 1912, Willa Cather, The Bohemian Girl:
      They were a fine company of old women, and a Dutch painter would have loved to find them there together, where the sun made bright patches on the floor and sent long, quivering shafts of gold through the dusky shade up among the rafters.
    • Floor definition
      The interior bottom or surface of a house or building; the supporting surface of a room. (1 of 17 floor definitions)
  6. The main axis of a feather.
    I had no idea that they removed the feathers' shafts to make the pillows softer!
    • Feather definition
      A branching, hair-like structure that grows on the bodies of birds, used for flight, swimming, protection and display. (1 of 10 feather definitions)
  7. (lacrosse) The long narrow body of a lacrosse stick.
    Sarah, if you wear gloves your hands might not slip on your shaft and you can up your game, girl!
    • Lacrosse definition
      A sport played on a field between two opposing teams using sticks (crosses) and a ball, whereby one team defeats the other by achieving a higher score by scoring goals within the allotted time.
  8. A vertical or inclined passage sunk into the earth as part of a mine
    Your grandfather used to work with a crane hauling ore out of the gold mine's shafts.
  9. A vertical passage housing a lift or elevator; a liftshaft.
    Darn it, my keys fell through the gap and into the elevator shaft.
    • Liftshaft definition
      The vertical shaft in a building which contains a lift (elevator) platform or cab, and through which it is moved from floor to floor.
  10. A ventilation or heating conduit; an air duct.
    Our parrot flew into the air duct and got stuck in the shaft.
  11. (architecture) Any column or pillar, particularly the body of a column between its capital and pedestal.
  12. The main cylindrical part of the penis.
    The female labia minora is homologous to the penis shaft skin of males.
  13. The chamber of a blast furnace.
  14. (weather) A relatively small area of precipitation that an onlook can discern from the dry surrounding area.

Usage notes

In Early Modern English, the shaft referred to the entire body of a long weapon, such that an arrow's "shaft" was composed of its "tip", "stale" or "steal", and "fletching". Palsgrave (circa 1530) glossed the French j[']empenne as "I fether a shafte, I put fethers upon a steale". Over time, the word came to be used in place of the former "stale" and lost its original meaning.


Derived terms


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Dictionary:Entry layout § Translations.


shaft (third-person singular simple present shafts, present participle shafting, simple past and past participle shafted)

  1. (transitive, slang) To fuck over; to cause harm to, especially through deceit or treachery.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:deceive
    Your boss really shafted you by stealing your idea like that.
    • 1992, “Crackers And Cheese”, performed by Eminem:
      Who can I trust after repeatedly being shafted
    • Fuck Over definition
      to cheat or treat unfairly (to exploit somebody in a way which results in an advantage to oneself, at the cost of the other party gaining a considerable disadvantage)
  2. (transitive) To equip with a shaft.
    • Equip definition
      To supply with something necessary in order to carry out a specific action or task; to provide with (e.g. weapons, provisions, munitions, rigging) (1 of 4 equip definitions)
  3. (transitive, slang) To fuck; to have sexual intercourse with.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:copulate with
    Turns out my roommate was shafting my girlfriend.
    • 2018 Christian Cooke as Mickey Argyle, "Episode 2", Ordeal by Innocence (written by Sarah Phelps) 23 minutes
      Well at least I can get it up. No wonder Mary's going out of her head. Stuck with you sponging off her and not even a decent shafting for her trouble.



Middle English

Etymology 1

From Old English sċeaft (shaft).



  1. Alternative form of schaft (shaft)
    • Schaft definition
      second- and third-person singular present indicative of schaffen (1 of 4 schaft definitions)

Etymology 2

From Old English sċeaft (creation).



  1. Alternative form of schaft (creation)