Definition of “shell” - English Dictionary

“shell” in British English

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uk /ʃel/ us /ʃel/

shell noun (COVERING)

B2 [ C or U ] the hard outer covering of something, especially nuts, eggs, and some animals:

Brazil nuts have very hard shells.
A piece of shell fell into the cake mixture.
the shell of a snail/crab/tortoise
a shell necklace (= a piece of jewellery made out of the shells of small sea creatures)

[ C ] the basic outer structure of a building or vehicle, especially when the parts inside have been destroyed or taken or have not yet been made:

the shell of a burned-out farmhouse

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shell noun (EXPLOSIVE)

[ C ] a container, usually with a pointed end, that is filled with explosives and shot from a large gun:

Artillery and mortar shells were landing in the outskirts of the city.

shellverb [ T ]

uk /ʃel/ us /ʃel/


uk /ʃil/ /ʃiːl/ us /ʃil/ /ʃiːl/

short form of she will:

She'll be here later.

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(Definition of “shell” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

“shell” in American English

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us /ʃel/

shell noun (COVERING)

[ C/U ] the hard outer covering of nuts, eggs, a few vegetables, and some animals:

[ C ] Turtles, snails, and crabs all have shells to protect them.

shell noun (EXPLOSIVE)

[ C ] a tube filled with explosives that is fired from a large gun

shellverb [ T ]

us /ʃel/

shell verb [ T ] (FIRE EXPLOSIVE)

to fire shells at something:

Military forces began shelling areas north of the city.

shell verb [ T ] (REMOVE COVERING)

to remove the hard outer covering of nuts and other foods:

He sits in front of the TV, shelling peanuts.

Phrasal verb(s)


us /ʃil, ʃɪl/

contraction of she will or she shall:

She’ll be there tomorrow, I’m sure.

(Definition of “shell” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

“shell” in Business English

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shellnoun [ C ]

uk /ʃel/ us also shell company, also shell corporation FINANCE, LAW

a company that has been created to hide illegal activities:

The shell advertised bonds for sale to investors, but this offering was essentially a fraud because no bonds ever existed.
She played a vital role in the bribery scheme by creating a shell company to receive a flow of illicit payments.

a company that has been officially created so that it can be sold to someone who does not want to have to create the company themselves:

Most holding company reorganizations involve a merger between the pre-existing company and a shell company.

a company that was active in the past, but that now does little or no business, that someone buys so they do not have to create a new company:

Maypole was created out of a shell company called Octagon.

shelladjective [ before noun ]

uk /ʃel/ us FINANCE, LAW

used to describe an organization that has been created to hide illegal activities:

The bill would prevent US banks from opening accounts for foreign shell banks.

(Definition of “shell” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)