Definition of shaft in English:



  • 1A long, narrow part or section forming the handle of a tool or club, the body of a spear or arrow, or similar.

    ‘the shaft of a golf club’
    ‘the shaft of a feather’
    • ‘A slip of paper was tied around the shaft of the arrow.’
    • ‘They may have a short shaft or a blade at each end.’
    • ‘The shaft of the cutting tool fits into a collet, which in turn fits into the chuck sleeve.’
    • ‘Maintaining a good posture, rotate the upper body to the right so that the shaft of the club is in front of you.’
    • ‘He found her fondling the shaft of her spear, a few steps away.’
    • ‘It had a long shaft like a spear, but was more of a polearm than a thrusting weapon.’
    • ‘She cringed as her black blood ran down the shaft of the spear.’
    • ‘This type is characterized by a square cross section and an offset shaft that served to seat the awl in a bone or antler handle.’
    • ‘It came apart with a click and a spark of electricity, the long shaft separating from the body.’
    • ‘Move down the shaft of each section of hair and continue tying knots from the root of your hair to about 2 inches from the ends.’
    • ‘The first volley rang out as the sky further darkened by the shafts of thousands of arrows and bolts.’
    • ‘We heard the rhythmic pounding as the spear points were hammered onto shafts of ash wood.’
    • ‘The shaft of long handled tools should be a light wood, such as ash, and should be unpainted and free of knots.’
    • ‘He shook the handle, causing the shaft to snap into place, and pulled the lever back until it clicked, and released it.’
    • ‘The forging process and the hieretics on the shaft of the staff pointed to high craftsmenship years ahead of the Egyptians.’
    • ‘He snapped two fists around the shaft of his halberd.’
    • ‘The individual strings seem to hang from central shafts, each string as long as the shaft from the point it attaches.’
    • ‘They took their spear by the shaft, and made it lean on the knee.’
    • ‘The sun was partially blocked by the shafts of the arrows which had soared across the sky.’
    • ‘Small worked flint blades known as microliths were perhaps the barbs of spears and harpoons with wooden shafts.’
    pole, stick, rod, staff, shank, upright
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    1. 1.1An arrow or spear.
      • ‘Her heart soared with the swift flash of the shaft as it flew from the bow.’
    2. 1.2A column, especially the main part between the base and capital.
      • ‘There, although little had been reported by earlier scholars, we recorded Byzantine sculpture, an inscribed Byzantine tombstone, and several column shafts and capitals.’
      • ‘The freestanding column shafts are wrapped in black glazed tiles and the bases have a mosaic finish.’
      • ‘This cross, one of five contracted to John of Battle, is an octagonal pier in three tiers on a stepped base; the shaft at its top was installed in a restoration of 1840.’
      • ‘There were marble craters (mixing bowls) and candelabra, statuary, busts, reliefs, column capitals and bases, and 60 to 70 marble column shafts.’
      • ‘After all, the column, with its capital, shaft, and base, is designed after the human figure.’
      column, post, pole, support, upright, vertical, baluster, pier, pile, piling, pilaster, stanchion, standard, prop, buttress
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    3. 1.3A long cylindrical rotating rod for the transmission of motive power in a machine.
      • ‘The water wheel axle shaft still turned and made a squeaky noise but Don could hear the footsteps of someone on the floor above him.’
      • ‘The crank shaft turned the paddle shaft, which ultimately turned the paddle wheel.’
      • ‘The cams are mounted on a shaft which oscillates in rotation, and the pistons move so as to follow the profile of the cam.’
      • ‘These assemblies consist of a cylindrical shaft supported at either end by a support bearing.’
      • ‘The gearbox gets over both problems by being two half-gearboxes in one case, with two clutches and two transmission shafts, one inside the other.’
      • ‘It is even more silent than the four-wheel drive versions, as there is much less mechanical noise from beneath the floor, due to the absence of propellor shaft and rear axle.’
      • ‘This resistance could be reduced if the fixed shafts of the rollers were rotated as they moved.’
      • ‘The valves and gear shafts in his mind spun faster and faster, spark plugs flickering with anticipation.’
      • ‘Before the decade's end, it was discovered that an individual motor for each machine was more efficient and a lot safer than line shafts.’
      • ‘Figure 4 shows the digital and analog controller responses to a mechanical impulse on the shaft.’
      • ‘Blades up to 3 1/2 inches wide could be carried and both wheel shafts now ran in sell-aligning ball bearings.’
      • ‘The Compaction Detector is a soil penetrometer cone and shaft pushed by a hydraulic cylinder, rather than by hand, into the ground.’
      • ‘In 1782, Watt developed a rotary engine that could turn a shaft and drive machinery to power the machines to spin and weave cotton cloth.’
      • ‘As far as that goes I am willing to believe what I am told: that escalators are big, complicated machines packed into tight shafts and there aren't many hours when you can work on them.’
      • ‘The rheostat shafts are essentially cylinders with a flat face cut down one side.’
      • ‘The spindle shaft rests between the maiden in the front and leather bearings attached to the flat board in the back.’
      • ‘The feed was controlled by a hand lever at the top of the gear box and driven by belt, gears and universal shaft, giving a positive feed.’
      • ‘It has an area of 280 square metres and is complete with waterwheel, gears and shafts, millstones and fans and sieves for the processing of grain.’
      • ‘The hub motor's shaft is stationary and the outer casing spins, turning the rim and tire to which it is spoked.’
      • ‘The first things to go in were the engines, a job that required a lot of measuring and development of a gear train to match their output to the belts and shafts that drove the looms.’
    4. 1.4Each of the pair of poles between which a horse is harnessed to a vehicle.
      ‘the shafts of a horse-drawn wagon’
  • 2A ray of light or bolt of lightning.

    ‘a shaft of sunlight’
    • ‘There was a shaft of light that I followed into the room.’
    • ‘Watch the camera slowly track down a dark hallway toward a shaft of light from a crack in a door.’
    • ‘The coming of the dawn sent a shaft of light right across Adam's face.’
    • ‘In a shaft of light from the salon his smile looked almost evil.’
    • ‘But as I approached the area where I could see a shaft of light, I stopped.’
    • ‘I imagined that he was standing in a shaft of white light, though he was only a shadow within that light.’
    • ‘A shaft of light moved across my eyes, rousing me from deep slumber.’
    • ‘Dust specks drift through a shaft of light in Grand Central Station.’
    • ‘She departed the command center and stepped into a shaft of white light in the atrium outside.’
    • ‘He hurled it into the chest of the monster and the trident transformed itself into a shaft of lightning, exploding into the beast.’
    • ‘She focussed on the relaxing qualities of that beautiful shaft of silver moonlight.’
    • ‘So the building is metaphorically pinned to its place with a shaft of light from the sky that illuminates the whole labyrinth of knowledge.’
    • ‘As the music subsides they are both bathed in red light before a shaft of white light signifies the flight of their spirits to eternity.’
    • ‘The skies cracked as a shaft of lightning, unleashed with the power of electrical fury, uncannily sped towards his still form on the ground.’
    • ‘It was one of those special moments when you get a shaft of light, when something which you thought you couldn't know emerges, and you suddenly see what was going on.’
    • ‘The curtains were open and moonlight streamed through the windows, a shaft of light landing on the pillow.’
    • ‘Illuminated by a shaft of light from the ceiling, the altar glowed with brimming power, standing immaculate in the centre of the hall.’
    • ‘Chris trembled as a shaft of the black light touched her skin.’
    • ‘In an annual commemorative ritual tied to sun and sky, a shaft of light will illuminate the void between the time of the first and second attacks.’
    • ‘A woman in a red skirt is caught in a shaft of white light and appears to be dragging a heavy shadow behind her.’
    ray, beam, gleam, streak, pencil, finger, bar
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    1. 2.1A sudden flash of a quality or feeling.
      ‘a shaft of inspiration’
      • ‘Almost immediately she tripped and fell over, hitting the ground heavily, the impact forcing the breath from her body and sending a shaft of agony through her belly.’
      • ‘It shook him to the core with a ghostly shaft of fear impaling his quivering heart.’
      • ‘Claire checked herself immediately when an almost jealous shaft of emotion went through her.’
      • ‘At that a sudden shaft of fear struck through her abdomen, and she was tempted to retch or scream.’
      frisson, shiver, spasm, thrill, tingle, stab, dart
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    2. 2.2A remark intended to be witty, wounding, or provoking.
      ‘he directs his shafts against her’
      cutting remark, barb, gibe, taunt, sting
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  • 3A long, narrow, typically vertical hole that gives access to a mine, accommodates a lift in a building, or provides ventilation.

    • ‘With the help of the schematics he had obtained earlier, he managed to shut off the security system and enter through a ventilation shaft - an air duct.’
    • ‘Another precipitous passage comes to a landing with vertical shafts disappearing into the ceiling.’
    • ‘For example, we were required to provide straight vertical shafts for plumbing, running from the ground to the highest unit.’
    • ‘Athena kneeled down and lifted up what appeared to be only a ventilation shaft, but was in fact an access panel.’
    • ‘The shaft was merely a hole in the ground and the mining equipment was generally specialised and not readily moved.’
    • ‘By this time the mine had three shafts, many large stopes and hundreds of metres of drives.’
    • ‘At first I thought it was a holo-fall, but then saw it was just silvery linen, blowing this way and that from two ventilation shafts.’
    • ‘As many as six shafts were sunk to mine the silver ore.’
    • ‘Newspapers lift up the vertical shaft of the alley like small printed angels.’
    • ‘The original stair hall, with an inserted glass lift shaft, provides the circulation linkage between the new and original pools.’
    • ‘‘I've looked around this room and it appears there are no ventilation shafts,’ said Jonathan.’
    • ‘They mine diamonds in a shaft, the entrance to which is inside their house.’
    • ‘They got down to the end of the corridor to the hole in the door leading to the lift shaft.’
    • ‘The other team crashed down through the ceiling, having climbed along the ventilation shafts, right down on top of the African Hardwood conference desk.’
    • ‘I need that area to be completely airtight, including partitions and ventilation shafts.’
    • ‘It was about the same size as the ventilation shafts at the school I rescued hostages from as my first mission, except it was round, not square.’
    • ‘Then, add to the atrium a luminous white skin of glazed bricks and a series of feature elements - balconies, stairs and stripped down lift shafts - and you very nearly have a new building.’
    • ‘Coal was the fuel that fired the Industrial Revolution, coal was found in coal mines, and cages were needed to transport men and supplies up and down the shafts of these mines.’
    • ‘Then, gas entered the ship through the ventilation shafts, and she lost consciousness.’
    • ‘There are no doors, no windows, no pipes, no ventilation shafts.’
    mineshaft, tunnel, passage, pit, adit, downcast, upcast
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  • 4vulgar slang A man's penis.

    1. 4.1North American informal Harsh or unfair treatment.
      ‘the executives continue to raise their pay while the workers get the shaft’


  • 1[no object, with adverbial of direction] (of light) shine in beams.

    ‘brilliant sunshine shafted through the skylight’
    • ‘A small light shafted from a hole in the ceiling, which actually was a road above.’
    • ‘Light shafted out of the box like the fall of a sword - a bright, white, ruthless light.’
    • ‘The bright purple and red colors from the sunset shafted through the hundreds of small square panes in the windows, and dropped onto the cracked asphalt, which was growing gnarled and full of weeds.’
  • 2vulgar slang [with object] (of a man) have sexual intercourse with (a woman).

    1. 2.1informal Treat (someone) harshly or unfairly.
      ‘I suppose she'll get a lawyer and I'll be shafted’


Old English scæft, sceaft ‘handle, pole’, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch schaft, German Schaft, and perhaps also to sceptre. Early senses of the verb ( late Middle English) were ‘fit with a handle’ and ‘send out shafts of light’.