Also found in: Thesaurus, Medical, Idioms, Encyclopedia.


n. pl. shelves (shĕlvz)
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.
3. Bedrock.
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- in Indo-European roots.]

shelf′ful′ n.


the amount held on a shelf; the contents of a shelf
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.shelfful - the amount that a shelf will hold; "he bought a shelfful of books"
containerful - the quantity that a container will hold
Mentioned in ?
References in periodicals archive ?
So it is inspiring to have a shelfful of astronomy books written by authors who knew Martin Luther personally.
There was the man who has devoted his retirement to the study and practice of social criticism; the "graying engineer" who recommended Stiffed to his fellow Promise Keepers; the environmental science student at Rice University whose searching reviews of such works as the Koran, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and an entire shelfful of books attempting to refute the theory of evolution provided a moving portrait of a sensitive mind com posing itself into maturity.
This brief account of the two biographies that Churchill wrote, to which one might add several dozen brief lives he limned in Great Contemporaries (a book of essays published in 1935), may suffice to introduce his shelfful of books.