1. a long pole forming the body of various weapons, as lances, halberds, or arrows.
  2. something directed or barbed as in sharp attack: shafts of sarcasm.
  3. a ray or beam: a shaft of sunlight.
  4. a long, comparatively straight handle serving as an important or balancing part of an implement or device, as of a hammer, ax, golf club, or other implement.
  5. Machinery. a rotating or oscillating round, straight bar for transmitting motion and torque, usually supported on bearings and carrying gears, wheels, or the like, as a propeller shaft on a ship, or a drive shaft of an engine.
  6. a flagpole.
  7. Architecture.
    1. that part of a column or pier between the base and capital.
    2. any distinct, slender, vertical masonry feature engaged in a wall or pier and usually supporting or feigning to support an arch or vault.
  8. a monument in the form of a column, obelisk, or the like.
  9. either of the parallel bars of wood between which the animal drawing a vehicle is hitched.
  10. any well-like passage or vertical enclosed space, as in a building: an elevator shaft.
  11. Mining. a vertical or sloping passageway leading to the surface.
  12. Botany. the trunk of a tree.
  13. Zoology. the main stem or midrib of a feather.
  14. Also called leaf. Textiles. the harness or warp with reference to the pattern of interlacing threads in weave constructions (usually used in combination): an eight-shaft satin.
  15. the part of a candelabrum that supports the branches.

verb (used with object)

  1. to push or propel with a pole: to shaft a boat through a tunnel.
  2. Informal. to treat in a harsh, unfair, or treacherous manner.


  1. the long narrow pole that forms the body of a spear, arrow, etc
  2. something directed at a person in the manner of a missileshafts of sarcasm
  3. a ray, beam, or streak, esp of light
  4. a rod or pole forming the handle of a hammer, axe, golf club, etc
  5. a revolving rod that transmits motion or power: usually used of axial rotationCompare rod (def. 9)
  6. one of the two wooden poles by which an animal is harnessed to a vehicle
  7. anatomy
    1. the middle part (diaphysis) of a long bone
    2. the main portion of any elongated structure or part
  8. the middle part of a column or pier, between the base and the capital
  9. a column, obelisk, etc, esp one that forms a monument
  10. architect a column that supports a vaulting rib, sometimes one of a set
  11. a vertical passageway through a building, as for a lift
  12. a vertical passageway into a mine
  13. ornithol the central rib of a feather
  14. an archaic or literary word for arrow
  15. get the shaft US and Canadian slang to be tricked or cheated


  1. slang to have sexual intercourse with (a woman)
  2. slang to trick or cheat

n.1Old English sceaft “long, slender rod, staff, pole; spear-shaft; spear,” from Proto-Germanic *skaftaz (cf. Old Norse skapt, Old Saxon skaft, Old High German scaft, German schaft, Dutch schacht, not found in Gothic), which some connect with a Germanic passive past participle of PIE root *(s)kep- “to cut, to scrape” (cf. Old English scafan “to shave, scrape, polish”) on notion of “tree branch stripped of its bark.” But cf. Latin scapus “shaft, stem, shank,” Greek skeptron “a staff” (see scepter) which appear to be cognates. Meaning “beam or ray” (of light, etc.) is attested from c.1300. Sense of “an arrow” is from c.1400; that of “a handle” from 1520s. Mechanical sense is from 1680s. Vulgar slang meaning “penis” first recorded 1719 on notion of “columnar part” (late 14c.); hence probably shaft (v.) and the related noun sense “act of unfair treatment” (1959), though some early sources insist this is from the notion of a “wound.” n.2“long, narrow passage sunk into the earth,” early 15c., probably from shaft (n.1) on notion of “long and cylindrical,” perhaps as a translation of cognate Low German schacht in this sense (Grimm’s suggestion, though OED is against it). Or it may represent a separate (unrecorded) development in Old English directly from Proto-Germanic *skaftaz if the original sense is “scrape, dig.” The slang sense of shaft (n.1) is punned upon in country music song “She Got the Gold Mine, I Got the Shaft,” a hit for Jerry Reed in 1982. v.“treat cruelly and unfairly,” by 1958, perhaps from shaft (n.1) with overtones of sodomy. Related: Shafted; shafting. n.

  1. An elongated rodlike structure, such as the midsection of a long bone.
  2. The section of a hair projecting from the surface of the body.

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