American English

Definition of shell noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1 [countable, uncountable] the hard outer part of eggs, nuts, some seeds, and some animals We collected shells on the beach. snail shells walnut shells earrings made out of coconut shell see also eggshell, nutshell, seashell, tortoiseshell
  2. 2[countable] any object that looks like the shell of a snail or sea creature pasta shells
  3. 3[countable] a metal case filled with explosives, to be fired from a large gun A shell burst only yards away from us.
  4. 4= cartridge
  5. 5[countable] the walls or outer structure of something, for example, an empty building or ship after a fire or a bomb attack The house was now a shell gutted by flames. (figurative) My life has been an empty shell since he died.
  6. 6[countable] any structure that forms a hard outer frame the body shell of a car
  7. 7[singular] the outer layer of someone's personality; how they seem to be or feel She had developed a shell of indifference.
  8. Idioms
    come out of your shell
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    to become less shy and more confident when talking to other people He's really come out of his shell since he met Marie.
    to go/retreat, etc. into your shell
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    to become shyer and avoid talking to other people Whenever my friends are here, she just withdraws into her shell.
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: shell