shelf

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top-shelf

1. Of a high, excellent, or superior quality. Jim was drinking top-shelf liquor all night on his birthday. I can't imagine the bar tab he must have racked up! My brother-in-law is always driving around town in the latest top-shelf car.
2. Of or containing pornography. Few realize that the newspaper mogul got his start by distributing top-shelf magazines to newsagents in the '70s.

shelf life

The length of time that something is viable or useful. Milk has a very short shelf life, as it tends to expire quickly. I'm hoping that this product will have a very long shelf life and be useful for years to come.
See also: life, shelf

off the shelf

Fig. ready made for purchase; not custom-made. (Hyphenated when prenominal.) I generally buy off-the-shelf clothing. I am a perfect size eight.
See also: off, shelf

on the shelf

 
1. Fig. not active socially; left to oneself in social matters. (Alludes to being left or stored on a shelf.) I've been on the shelf long enough. I'm going to make some friends. She likes being on the shelf.
2. Fig. postponed. We'll have to put this matter on the shelf for a while. I have a plan on the shelf just waiting for an opportunity like this.
See also: on, shelf

off the shelf

in a form that is ready to be used Most of the technology needed can be bought off the shelf.
Usage notes: usually used to show that something is not specially made for a particular use
See also: off, shelf

put somebody on the shelf

to cause someone not to be available A sore left knee put him on the shelf for two weeks, and he has missed six games.
See also: on, put, shelf

put something on the shelf

to delay something The library's plan to show three films next week has been put on the shelf.
See also: on, put, shelf

a shelf life

the length of time that something will last or remain useful
Usage notes: The shelf life of a product is the amount of time that it can be offered for sale before it must be thrown away.
These days many marriages have a fairly short shelf life.
See also: life, shelf

on the shelf

  (British & Australian old-fashioned)
if someone, especially a woman, is on the shelf, they are not married and people now believe they are too old to get married I was afraid my daughter would never find a husband, that she'd be left on the shelf.
See also: on, shelf

off the shelf

Ready-made, available from merchandise or in stock, as opposed to a special order. For example, Sometimes you can get a better discount by buying an appliance off the shelf. [First half of 1900s] Also see off the rack; on the shelf.
See also: off, shelf

on the shelf

1. Inactive, not employed, as in With mandatory retirement at 65, many useful employees are put on the shelf. [Second half of 1500s]
2. In a state of disuse, as in We'll have to put her proposal on the shelf until we have more funds. [Late 1800s]
3. Without prospects of marriage. For example, After she broke her third engagement, her parents were sure she'd be on the shelf. This usage is always said of a woman and today considered offensive. It is probably obsolescent. [Early 1800s] All these usages allude to an article left on the shelf of a store, bookcase, or the like.
See also: on, shelf

off-the-shelf

mod. readily available; purchasable without any special difficulties or delays. This is just plain old off-the-shelf hand lotion. Isn’t it great?

on the shelf

1. mod. not active socially; left to oneself in social matters. I’ve been on the shelf long enough. I’m going to make some friends.
2. mod. postponed. (see also on the back burner.) We’ll have to put this matter on the shelf for a while.
See also: on, shelf

off the shelf

From ready-made merchandise in stock: supplies that were available off the shelf.
See also: off, shelf

on the shelf

1. In a state of disuse or inactivity: The injured goalie has been on the shelf for weeks.
2. Out of consideration: The finance bill is on the shelf until next year.
See also: on, shelf