n. pl. shelves (shĕlvz)Idioms:
a. A flat, usually rectangular structure composed of a rigid material, such as wood, glass, or metal, fixed at right angles to a wall or other vertical surface and used to hold or store objects.
b. The contents or capacity of such a structure.
c. Something, such as a projecting ledge of rock or a balcony, that resembles such a structure.
2. A reef, sandbar, or shoal.
off the shelf
From ready-made merchandise in stock: supplies that were available off the shelf.
on the shelf
1. In a state of disuse or inactivity: The injured goalie has been on the shelf for weeks.
2. Out of consideration: The finance bill is on the shelf until next year.
[Middle English, probably from Middle Low German schelf; see skel-1 in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.
American Heritage Dictionary Products
The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Edition
The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms
The American Heritage Roget's Thesaurus
Curious George's Dictionary
The American Heritage Children's Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots
The American Heritage Student Grammar Dictionary
The American Heritage Desk Dictionary + Thesaurus
The American Heritage Science Dictionary
The American Heritage Dictionary of Business Terms
The American Heritage Student Dictionary
The American Heritage Essential Student Thesaurus