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.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.