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.
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.
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.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 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.