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


1. A long thin object or part, as:
a. The long narrow stem or body of a spear or arrow.
b. A spear or arrow.
c. The handle of any of various tools or implements.
d. One of two parallel poles between which an animal is harnessed to a vehicle.
e. A long, generally cylindrical bar that rotates and transmits power, as the drive shaft of an engine.
2. Zoology The main axis of a feather, especially its distal portion.
3. Anatomy
a. The midsection of a long bone; the diaphysis.
b. The section of a hair projecting from the surface of the body.
c. The body of the clitoris, extending from the root to the glans.
d. The body of the penis, extending from the root to the glans.
4. Architecture
a. A column or obelisk.
b. The principal portion of a column, between the capital and the base.
5. Something suggestive of a spear or arrow in appearance or configuration, as:
a. A ray or beam of light.
b. A bolt of lightning.
a. A long, narrow, often vertical passage sunk into the earth, as for mining ore; a tunnel.
b. A vertical passage housing an elevator.
c. A duct or conduit for the passage of air, as for ventilation or heating.
7. The upright portion of a boot that covers the leg.
a. A scornful or sarcastic remark; a barb.
b. Slang Harsh, unfair treatment. Often used with the: The management gave the unions the shaft.
9. Vulgar Slang A penis.
tr.v. shaft·ed, shaft·ing, shafts
1. To equip with a shaft.
2. Slang To treat in a harsh, unfair way: "He had been shafted by the press quite a bit" (Frank Deford).
3. Slang To penetrate (someone) sexually.

[Middle English, from Old English sceaft.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


To steer vehicles or implements pulled by two horses, a Tongue attached to the front axle was used, but when there was only one horse, a pair of shafts (light poles) were used instead of a tongue. The shafts were positioned so that they ran along either side of the horse and were attached to the horse’s Harness by leather straps.
1001 Words and Phrases You Never Knew You Didn’t Know by W.R. Runyan Copyright © 2011 by W.R. Runyan
References in classic literature ?
Then one of them, with his mouth full, called out to Robin, "Hulloa, where goest thou, little lad, with thy one-penny bow and thy farthing shafts?"
Tarzan could not even unsling his bow and fit an arrow in time to send one of his deadly poisoned shafts into the yellow hide.
"My bow is as good as yours," he retorted, "and my shafts will carry as straight and as far.
The archers, having previously determined by lot their order of precedence, were to shoot each three shafts in succession.
Search for the precious map was given up for the time being, and the professor and his friends set the natives to work digging shafts in the ground, as though sinking them down to the level of the buried city.
Before him he saw the straight lines of the shafts which constantly deceived him into thinking they were on a well-travelled road, and the horse's swaying crupper with his knotted tail blown to one side, and farther ahead the high shaft-bow and the swaying head and neck of the horse with its waving mane.
1-20) I sing of Artemis, whose shafts are of gold, who cheers on the hounds, the pure maiden, shooter of stags, who delights in archery, own sister to Apollo with the golden sword.
The side horses, pressing against the shafts of the middle horse, sank in the snow, which was dry and glittered like sugar, and threw it up.
The shaft-horses were tilted against the shafts by the ruts, but the dexterous driver sitting on the box held the shaft over the ruts, so that the wheels ran on the smooth part of the road.
We had come quite close to the city when my attention was attracted toward a tall, black shaft that reared its head several hundred feet into the air from what appeared to be a tangled mass of junk or wreckage, now partially snow-covered.
I had not dared pull my speed lever to the highest for fear of overrunning the mouth of the shaft that passed from Omean's dome to the world above, but even so we were hitting a clip that I doubt has ever been equalled on the windless sea.
As I fitted the shaft with my right hand I stopped and wheeled toward the gorilla-man.