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From Middle English schanke, from Old English sċanca (leg), from Proto-West Germanic *skankō, from Proto-Germanic *skankô (compare West Frisian skonk, Low German Schanke, German Schenkel (shank, leg), Danish skank, Norwegian skank), from *skankaz (compare Old Norse skakkr (wry, crooked)), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)keng- (compare Middle Irish scingim (I spring), Ancient Greek σκάζω (skázō, to limp).


  • IPA(key): /ʃæŋk/
  • Audio (US):(file)
  • Rhymes: -æŋk



shank (plural shanks)

  1. The part of the leg between the knee and the ankle.
  2. Meat from that part of an animal.
  3. (ornithology, colloquial) A redshank or greenshank, various species of Old World wading birds in the genus Tringa having distinctly colored legs.
  4. A straight, narrow part of an object, such as a key or an anchor; shaft; stem.
    • 1904–1906, Joseph Conrad, chapter IV, in The Mirror of the Sea, 1st American edition, New York, N.Y., London: Harper & Brothers, published October 1906, →OCLC:
      The honest, rough piece of iron, so simple in appearance, has more parts than the human body has limbs: the ring, the stock, the crown, the flukes, the palms, the shank. All this, according to the journalist, is “cast” when a ship arriving at an anchorage is brought up.
  5. The handle of a pair of shears, connecting the ride to the neck.
  6. The center part of a fishhook between the eye and the hook, the 'hook' being the curved part that bends toward the point.
  7. A protruding part of an object, by which it is or can be attached.
  8. The metal part on a curb bit that falls below the mouthpiece, which length controls the severity of the leverage action of the bit, and to which the reins of the bridle are attached.
  9. (golf) A poorly played golf shot in which the ball is struck by the part of the club head that connects to the shaft.
    • 1953, Arnold Gingrich, The Esquire Treasury:
      To a good golfer a shank is disgracefuller than being dead drunk or in jail.
  10. (slang) An improvised stabbing weapon.
    Synonym: (slang) shiv
    • 2017, Stormzy, Mura Masa (lyrics and music), “Mr Skeng” (track 1), in Gang Signs & Prayer, performed by Stormzy:
      LBC's tryna blackball me / And tryna blame your boy for knife crime (Like, what?) / I don't use a shank, I got money in the bank / Man, I'd rather do a drive-by
    • 2019, Casey Diaz, Mike Yorkey, The Shot Caller [] , Emanate Books, →ISBN, page 76:
      One of the shot callers' responsibilities was to control the shanks within the prison population—the crude homemade knives used for stabbing another prisoner.
  11. A loop forming an eye to a button.
  12. (architecture) The space between two channels of the Doric triglyph[18th century].
  13. (metalworking) A large ladle for molten metal, fitted with long bars for handling it.
  14. (printing, dated) The body of a type; between the shoulder and the foot.
  15. (shoemaking) The part of the sole beneath the instep connecting the broader front part with the heel.
  16. Flat-nosed pliers, used by opticians for nipping off the edges of pieces of glass to make them round.
  17. The end or remainder, particularly of a period of time.
  18. The main part or beginning of a period of time.
    the shank of the morning
    • 1945, Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie, page 92:
      AMANDA: Going now? You're joking! Why, it's only the shank of the evening, Mr. O’Connor!

Derived terms






shank (third-person singular simple present shanks, present participle shanking, simple past and past participle shanked)

  1. (archaic, Ulster) To travel on foot.
  2. (slang) To stab, especially with an improvised blade.
  3. (slang) To remove another's trousers, especially in jest; to depants.
  4. (transitive, golf) To misstrike the ball with the part of the club head that connects to the shaft.
  5. (transitive, chiefly tennis, soccer, gridiron football) To hit or kick the ball in an unintended direction.
    • 2011 September 28, Tom Rostance, “Arsenal 2 - 1 Olympiakos”, in BBC Sport[1]:
      Marouane Chamakh then spurned a great chance to kill the game off when he ran onto Andrey Arshavin's lofted through ball but shanked his shot horribly across the face of goal.
  6. (intransitive) To fall off, as a leaf, flower, or capsule, on account of disease affecting the supporting footstalk; usually followed by off.
    • 1861, Charles Darwin, Cause of the variation of flowers:
      the gerrnens of these swelled, and on four out of the six I have now got fine pods, above 1% inch in length, with the seeds externally visible; whereas the flower stalks of the many other flowers all shanked off.
  7. (transitive, sewing) To provide (a button) with a shank (loop forming an eye).
    • 2000, The Indian Textile Journal (volume 110, issues 7-12)
      The system is suitable for shanking all kind of sewn buttons (jackets, coats, blouses, shirts, trousers).
  8. (shoemaking) To apply the shank to a shoe, during the process of manufacturing it.
    • 1986 March 6, "Factory Work" [Poetry, 147], quoted in 2009, Deborah Boe, The Girl of the Early Race: Poems, Gegensatz Press (→ISBN):
      I take those metal shanks, slide the backs of them in glue and make them lie down on the shoe-bottoms, [] Last week they ran a contest to see which shankers shanked fastest. I'm not embarrassed to say I beat them all.


  • (to stab with an improvised weapon): shiv (slang)
  • (to remove another's pants): debag, depants (slang)



shank (comparative shanker, superlative shankest)

  1. (slang) Bad.

See also