Middle English Dictionary Entry

shel(le n.
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Entry Info

Definitions (Senses and Subsenses)

(a) In general, the protective calcareous or chitinous outer covering of an invertebrate, a shell; (b) the shell of a mollusk, crustacean, or an echinoderm; also fig.; also in proverb; (c) ~ fish [OE scil-fisc], any animal that lives in water and has a shell, a shellfish; ~ of galice, seinte james ~, a scallop shell worn to signify that one had made a pilgrimage to St. James of Compostella in Galicia; muscle ~ [see muscle n.(1) (a) & (b)]; oistre ~, an oyster shell [see also oistre n.(c)]; also, as an image of worthlessness [quot.: a1500, 1st]; (d) fig. ?a covering, circumstance.
An eggshell; also, fig. ?a hiding place [quot.: a1500(a1400)]; hen) egge ~; egge) ~ ful, a measure of volume.
(a) The shell of a nut or of a fruit considered a nut, a nutshell; ~ fruit; note ~, a nutshell; also as an image of worthlessness or poverty; wal-note ~ [see wal-not(e n.]; wal-note ~ ful, a small measure of volume; (b) a bean pod or seed husk; ?~ strau, ?a shell-straw, mote; ?a piece of husk; pome-garnete ~, a pomegranate rind; ben in ~, fig. to dwell obscure.
An unspecified shell as an image of worthlessness.
(a) A vessel, dish, drinking vessel; also in proverb; maser ~, a maple drinking vessel; warri ~, ?a drinking vessel of knotty wood; (b) a shallow bowl or tub for use in applying medicine; (c) ~ ful, a small measure of volume [quots. perh. belong to other senses, e.g., 2. or 3.(a)].
(a) A scurf, scale; a coating, layer; also, a blemish; (b) a piece cut from a surface, a shaving or chip; (c) a piece of tree bark; (d) a board or plank; (e) ?the hollow shape of the so-called 'shell teeth' (outer incisors) of a young horse.
A potsherd; a potsherd (?or shell) used as a scraper or surgical tool.
?In surnames and place name.

Supplemental Materials (draft)

  • (1424-5) EEWills5631 : I wull he haue my grete maser þe which I calle zele, for þe terme of his life.
  • Note: Does this word actually belong to shel(le n.? Is initial letter a "z" or a "ȝ"? (The editor says the latter.)--per REL
    Note: New spelling
    Note: For sense 5.(a).--per MLL

Supplemental Materials (draft)

  • a1500 Jul.Artist.Recipes (Jul D.8) 145/2 : Tak brasile and shaf hit small in an oyster shull, and whan þu hast yshaue ynogh, tac fressh gleyr and cast þeron and lat hit stonde.
  • Note: Additional quot., sense 1.(c). New spelling (shull).

Supplemental Materials (draft)

Note: Med., etc., see further J.Norri, Dictionary of Medical Vocabulary, s.v. shell.