on the shelf


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Encyclopedia.
Related to on the shelf: off the shelf, shelf life

on the shelf

1. Inactive, as in work or socially. I can't just go out and get a job—I've been on the shelf for nearly 30 years! I kept myself on the shelf throughout college. Now I really regret not being more outgoing and making friends.
2. In a state of postponement or suspension; rendered unavailable or unable to be used. We'll have to put this on the shelf until we get the fund necessary to complete it.
3. dated Of a woman, unmarried and unlikely to ever be due to her age. Potentially offensive. Primarily heard in UK. Afraid of being left on the shelf, Amy joined several online dating sites in the hopes of meeting someone.
See also: on, shelf
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

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
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

on the shelf

BRITISH, OLD-FASHIONED
If a woman is on the shelf, she is not married and is now too old for men to want to marry her. I certainly don't worry that I'm on the shelf just because I'm single! You can't pretend you're keen on someone just because you're afraid of being left on the shelf. Note: Many people dislike this expression because of the sexist attitude which it represents.
See also: on, shelf
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

on the shelf

1 (of people or things) no longer useful or desirable. 2 (of a woman) past an age when she might expect to have the opportunity to marry. 3 (of a music recording or a film) awaiting release on the market after being recorded.
See also: on, shelf
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

on the ˈshelf

(informal)
1 (especially of women) not married and unlikely to marry because you are no longer young: Some women used to think they were on the shelf if they weren’t married at 30.
2 not wanted by anyone; not used: Unemployed people often feel they’ve been left on the shelf.
See also: on, shelf
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

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
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.

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
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
See also: