Webster 1913 Edition



, AS.
; akin to D.
, OHG.
, G.
, Dan. & Sw.
handle, haft, Icel.
, and probably to L.
, Gr. [GREEK][GREEK][GREEK][GREEK], [GREEK][GREEK][GREEK][GREEK], a staff. Probably originally, a shaven or smoothed rod. Cf.
The slender, smooth stem of an arrow; hence, an arrow.
His sleep, his meat, his drink, is him bereft,
That lean he wax, and dry as is a
hath three principal parts, the stele [stale], the feathers, and the head.
The long handle of a spear or similar weapon; hence, the weapon itself; (
) anything regarded as a shaft to be thrown or darted;
of light
And the thunder,
Winged with red lightning and impetuous rage,
Perhaps hath spent his
Some kinds of literary pursuits . . . have been attacked with all the
of ridicule.
V. Knox.
That which resembles in some degree the stem or handle of an arrow or a spear; a long, slender part, especially when cylindrical.
Specifically: (a)
The trunk, stem, or stalk of a plant.
The stem or midrib of a feather.
See Illust. of
The pole, or tongue, of a vehicle; also, a thill.
The part of a candlestick which supports its branches.
Thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold . . . his
, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same.
Ex. xxv. 31.
The handle or helve of certain tools, instruments, etc., as a hammer, a whip, etc.
A pole, especially a Maypole.
The body of a column; the cylindrical pillar between the capital and base (see Illust. of
). Also, the part of a chimney above the roof. Also, the spire of a steeple.
[Obs. or R.]
A column, an obelisk, or other spire-shaped or columnar monument.
Bid time and nature gently spare
we raise to thee.
A rod at the end of a heddle.
A solid or hollow cylinder or bar, having one or more journals on which it rests and revolves, and intended to carry one or more wheels or other revolving parts and to transmit power or motion;
as, the
of a steam engine
See Illust. of
A humming bird (
Thaumastura cora
) having two of the tail feathers next to the middle ones very long in the male; – called also
cora humming bird
[Cf. G.
A well-like excavation in the earth, perpendicular or nearly so, made for reaching and raising ore, for raising water, etc.
A long passage for the admission or outlet of air; an air shaft.
The chamber of a blast furnace.
Line shaft
a main shaft of considerable length, in a shop or factory, usually bearing a number of pulleys by which machines are driven, commonly by means of countershafts; – called also
, or
main line
Shaft alley
a passage extending from the engine room to the stern, and containing the propeller shaft.
Shaft furnace
a furnace, in the form of a chimney, which is charged at the top and tapped at the bottom.

Webster 1828 Edition



L. scapus; from the root of shape, from setting, or shooting, extending.]
1. An arrow; a missile weapin; as the archer and the shaft.
So loftly was the pile, a Parthian bow
Whith vigor drawn must send the shaft below. Dryden.
2. In mining, a pit or long narrow opening or entrance into a mine. [This may possibly be a different word, as in German it is written schacht, Dan. skaegte.]
3. In architecture, the shaft of a column is the body of it, between the base and the capital.
4. Any thing straight; as the shaft of a steeple, and many other things.
5. The stem or stock of a fether or quill.
6. The pole of a carriage, sometimes called tongue or neap. The thills of a chaise or geg are also called shafts.
7. The handle of a weapon.

Definition 2023




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


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, Richard Jefferies, The Amateur Poacher, chapterII:
      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.
  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.
    • 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.
  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.
  6. The main axis of a feather.
    I had no idea that they removed the feathers' shafts to make the pillows softer!
  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!
  8. A long, narrow passage sunk into the earth, either natural or for artificial.
    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.
  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 pediment.
    • c. 1803-1882,, Ralph Waldo Emerson:
      Bid time and nature gently spare / The shaft we raise to thee.
  12. The main cylindrical part of the ****.
    The female labia minora is homologous to the **** shaft skin of males.
  13. The chamber of a blast furnace.

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

  • (long passage sunk into the earth): shaft cave



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

  1. (transitive, slang) To **** over; to cause harm to, especially through deceit or treachery.
    Your boss really shafted you by stealing your idea like that.
  2. (transitive) To equip with a shaft.
  3. (transitive, slang) To ****; to have sexual intercourse with.
    Turns out my roommate was shafting my girlfriend.