What does shrug mean?

Definitions for shrug

This dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word shrug.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. shrugverb

    a gesture involving the shoulders

  2. shrugverb

    raise one's shoulders to indicate indifference or resignation


  1. shrugnoun

    A gesture consisting of drawing up the shoulders, -- a motion usually expressing doubt, indifference, or dislike; -- it is sometimes accompanied by a slight turning of the hands outward or upward. Such a gesture may be made, as in answering "who knows" to a question, suggesting utter ignorance of an answer and a disinclination to pursue the topic further.


  1. shrugnoun

    A lifting of the shoulders to signal indifference.

    He dismissed my comment with a shrug.

  2. shrugverb

    To raise the shoulders to express a lack of knowledge or certainty.

    I asked him for an answer and he just shrugged.

  3. shrugverb

    To raise the shoulders to express a lack of concern or worry.

    When he saw the problem, he just shrugged and started fixing it.

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. Shrugnoun

    A motion of the shoulders usually expressing dislike or aversion.

    Etymology: from the verb.

    And yet they ramble not to learn the mode,
    How to be drest, or how to lisp abroad,
    To return knowing in the Spanish shrug. John Cleveland.

    As Spaniards talk in dialogues,
    Of heads and shoulders, nods and shrugs. Hudibras.

    Put on the critick’s brow, and sit
    At Will’s, the puny judge of wit.
    A nod, a shrug, a scornful smile,
    With caution us’d may serve a while. Jonathan Swift.

  2. To Shrugverb

    To contract or draw up.

    He shrugs his shoulders when you talk of securities. Addison.

    Zealots will shrug up their shoulders. Blount.

    He shrug’d his sturdy back,
    As if he felt his shoulders ake. Hudibras.


  1. Shrug

    A shrug is a gesture performed by raising both shoulders, and is a representation of an individual either being indifferent about something or not knowing an answer to a question. The shoulder-raising action may be accompanied by rotating the palms upwards, pulling closed lips downwards, raising the eyebrows or tilting the head to one side. A shrug is an emblem, meaning that it integrates the vocabulary of only certain cultures and may be used in place of words. In many countries, such as the United States, Sweden and Morocco, a shrug represents hesitation or lack of knowledge; however, in other countries, such as Japan and China, shrugging is uncommon and is not used to show hesitation. People from the Philippines, Iran and Iraq may interpret a shrug as a somewhat impolite sign of confidence.


  1. shrug

    A shrug is a gesture or action involving raising and lowering the shoulders, typically expressing indifference, doubt, or lack of knowledge. It can also be a verbal expression conveying the same sentiments.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Shrugverb

    to draw up or contract (the shoulders), especially by way of expressing dislike, dread, doubt, or the like

  2. Shrugverb

    to raise or draw up the shoulders, as in expressing dislike, dread, doubt, or the like

  3. Shrugnoun

    a drawing up of the shoulders, -- a motion usually expressing dislike, dread, or doubt

  4. Etymology: [Probably akin to shrink, p. p. shrunk; cf. Dan. skrugge, skrukke, to stoop, dial. Sw. skrukka, skruga, to crouch.]


  1. Shrug

    A shrug is a gesture that is performed by lifting both shoulders up, and is an indication of an individual either not knowing an answer to a question, or not caring about a result. It can also be used when someone is simply ignoring the person's question. It may be accentuated with raised eyebrows and/or an exaggerated frown. It is very common in Western culture, rather than saying "I don't know", they would simply perform a shrug. In the English-speaking world it may be accompanied by a three syllable grunt or hummed mumble mimicking the intonation of "I dunno". The shrug is relatively absent from Eastern culture. The gesture may be accompanied by raised palms.

Chambers 20th Century Dictionary

  1. Shrug

    shrug, v.t. to draw up: to contract.—v.i. to draw up the shoulders, expressive of doubt, surprise, indifference, &c.:—pr.p. shrug′ging; pa.t. and pa.p. shrugged.—n. an expressive drawing up of the shoulders. [Scand., Dan. skrugge, to stoop.]

Suggested Resources

  1. shrug

    Song lyrics by shrug -- Explore a large variety of song lyrics performed by shrug on the Lyrics.com website.

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British National Corpus

  1. Verbs Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'shrug' in Verbs Frequency: #591

How to pronounce shrug?

How to say shrug in sign language?


  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of shrug in Chaldean Numerology is: 1

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of shrug in Pythagorean Numerology is: 1

Examples of shrug in a Sentence

  1. William Copeland:

    If someone's maltreated, we tend to validate them, to tell them that it's not their fault, with bullying, it's sometimes the case that the response is a lot less supportive, more of a shrug.

  2. Larry Sabato:

    This is a shrug of the shoulders.

  3. Alexandra Kartokhina:

    As for these eternal squabbles that students from Crimea are taking university places from Russians, I can say only that it's completely absurd, and let me say that they have only allocated budgeted places for Crimean students to some universities and in some specialisms, which are often not the best. In some universities, questions about quotas are met with a shrug and a puzzled look.

  4. Sterne:

    How frequently are the honesty and integrity of a man disposed of by a smile or a shrug. How many good and generous actions have been sunk into oblivion by a distrustful look, or stamped with the imputation of bad motives, by a mysterious and seasonable whisper!

  5. Tom Porcelli:

    For even those folks that have been doubters about it, this has to pull them to the other side in terms of that conversation, one number in and of itself will not dictate if a hike happens or not, but a number like this is hard to shrug off.

Popularity rank by frequency of use


Translations for shrug

From our Multilingual Translation Dictionary

  • هز كتفيهArabic
  • encongiment d'espatllesCatalan, Valencian
  • pokrčit ramenyCzech
  • trække på skuldrene, skuldertrækDanish
  • mit den Schultern zucken, mit den Achseln zucken, Achselzucken, SchulterzuckenGerman
  • encogimiento de hombros, encogerse de hombrosSpanish
  • kohauttaa, olankohautusFinnish
  • hausser les épaules, haussement d'épaulesFrench
  • crath, crathadhScottish Gaelic
  • scrollare, stringere le spalleItalian
  • 肩を竦める, 肩を窄めるJapanese
  • schouderophalenDutch
  • wzruszyć ramionamiPolish
  • encolher os ombros, dar de ombros, encolhida de ombrosPortuguese
  • пожимать плечами, пожать плечами, пожимание плечамиRussian
  • слегнути раменима, slegnuti ramenima, slijeganje ramenima, слијегање раменимаSerbo-Croatian
  • rycka på axlarna, axelryckningSwedish
  • தோள்கள்Tamil
  • ยักThai
  • omuz silkmekTurkish
  • 耸耸肩Chinese

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"shrug." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2023. Web. 21 Sep. 2023. <https://www.definitions.net/definition/shrug>.

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    involving or causing danger or risk; liable to hurt or harm
    • A. plush
    • B. suspicious
    • C. dangerous
    • D. noninvasive

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