noun, plural shoes, (especially British Dialect) shoon.

  1. an external covering for the human foot, usually of leather and consisting of a more or less stiff or heavy sole and a lighter upper part ending a short distance above, at, or below the ankle.
  2. an object or part resembling a shoe in form, position, or use.
  3. a horseshoe or a similar plate for the hoof of some other animal.
  4. a ferrule or the like, as of iron, for protecting the end of a staff, pole, etc.
  5. brake shoe.
  6. the outer casing of a pneumatic automobile tire.
  7. a drag or skid for a wheel of a vehicle.
  8. a part having a larger area than the end of an object on which it fits, serving to disperse or apply its weight or thrust.
  9. the sliding contact by which an electric car or locomotive takes its current from the third rail.
  10. Civil Engineering.
    1. a member supporting one end of a truss or girder in a bridge.
    2. a hard and sharp foot of a pile or caisson for piercing underlying soil.
  11. a small molding, as a quarter round, closing the angle between a baseboard and a floor.
  12. the outwardly curved portion at the base of a downspout.
  13. a piece of iron or stone, sunk into the ground, against which the leaves of a gateway are shut.
  14. a device on a camera that permits an accessory, as a flashgun, to be attached.
  15. a band of iron on the bottom of the runner of a sleigh.
  16. Cards. dealing box.
  17. Furniture.
    1. a cuplike metal piece for protecting the bottom of a leg.
    2. a fillet beneath an ornamental foot, as a pad or scroll foot.
  18. Printing. a box into which unusable type is thrown.
  19. a chute conveying grain to be ground into flour.
  20. Carpentry. soleplate.
  21. Nautical. a thickness of planking covering the bottom of the keel of a wooden vessel to protect it against rubbing.

verb (used with object), shod or shoed, shod or shoed or shod·den, shoe·ing.

  1. to provide or fit with a shoe or shoes.
  2. to protect or arm at the point, edge, or face with a ferrule, metal plate, or the like.
  1. drop the other shoe, to complete an action or enterprise already begun.
  2. fill someone’s shoes, to take the place and assume the obligations of another person: She felt that no stepmother could ever hope to fill her late mother’s shoes.
  3. in someone’s shoes, in a position or situation similar to that of another: I wouldn’t like to be in his shoes.
  4. the shoe is on the other foot, the circumstances are reversed; a change of places has occurred: Now that we are rich and they are poor the shoe is on the other foot.
  5. where the shoe pinches, the true cause of the trouble or worry.


    1. one of a matching pair of coverings shaped to fit the foot, esp one ending below the ankle, having an upper of leather, plastic, etc, on a sole and heel of heavier leather, rubber, or synthetic material
    2. (as modifier)shoe cleaner
  1. anything resembling a shoe in shape, function, position, etc, such as a horseshoe
  2. a band of metal or wood on the bottom of the runner of a sledge
  3. (in baccarat, etc) a boxlike device for holding several packs of cards and allowing the cards to be dispensed singly
  4. a base for the supports of a superstructure of a bridge, roof, etc
  5. a metal collector attached to an electric train that slides along the third rail and picks up power for the motor
  6. engineering a lining to protect from and withstand wearSee brake shoe, pile shoe
  7. be in a person’s shoes informal to be in another person’s situation

verb shoes, shoeing or shod (tr)

  1. to furnish with shoes
  2. to fit (a horse) with horseshoes
  3. to furnish with a hard cover, such as a metal plate, for protection against friction or bruising

1620s, from shoe (n.) + -less. Related: Shoelessly; shoelessness.


Old English scoh “shoe,” from Proto-Germanic *skokhaz (cf. Old Norse skor, Danish and Swedish sko, Old Frisian skoch, Old Saxon skoh, Middle Dutch scoe, Dutch schoen, Old High German scuoh, German Schuh, Gothic skoh). No known cognates outside Germanic, unless it somehow is connected with PIE root *skeu- “cover” (cf. second element in Latin ob-scurus).

Old plural form shoon lasted until 16c. Meaning “metal plate to protect a horse’s hoof” is attested from late 14c. Distinction between shoe and boot (n.) is attested from c.1400. To stand in someone’s shoes “see things from his or her point of view” is attested from 1767. Old shoe as a type of something worthless is attested from late 14c.

Shoes tied to the fender of a newlywed couple’s car preserves the old custom (mentioned from 1540s) of throwing an old shoe at or after someone to wish them luck. Perhaps the association is with dirtiness, on the “muck is luck” theory.


Old English scogan “to shoe,” from the root of shoe (n.). In reference to horses from c.1200. Related: Shoed; shoeing.

In addition to the idiom beginning with shoe

  • shoe is on the other foot, the

also see:

  • comfortable as an old shoe
  • fill someone’s shoes
  • goody-two-shoes
  • if the shoe fits
  • in someone’s shoes
  • step into someone’s shoes
  • wait for the other shoe to drop
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