If your curtains allow light to pass through, they’re sheer, or see-through. Sheer can also describe something steep, like a cliff, or anything extreme, like sheer nerve.

This word has several meanings, but they’re all extreme. You might want to layer a sheer shirt over a tank top. Climbing a sheer cliff is almost impossible. If your car sheers, it swerves sharply, and you might crash. Maybe you’ve met all these meanings in a single nightmare: When the sheer fabric blew over your face as you drove, you lost control and the car began to sheer, filling you with sheer terror as you went over the sheer cliff.

Definitions of sheer
  1. adjective

    so thin as to transmit light

    sheer silk stockings”
    cobwebby, diaphanous, filmy, gauze-like, gauzy, gossamer, see-through, transparent, vaporous, vapourous


    of relatively small extent from one surface to the opposite or in cross section
  2. adjective

    complete and without restriction or qualification; sometimes used informally as intensifiers

    “got the job through
    sheer persistence”
    sheer stupidity”
    absolute, downright, out-and-out, rank, right-down


    having every necessary or normal part or component or step
  3. adjective

    not mixed with extraneous elements

    sheer wine”
    plain, unmingled, unmixed


    free of extraneous elements of any kind
  4. adjective

    very steep; having a prominent and almost vertical front

    sheer descent of rock”
    bluff, bold


    having a sharp inclination
  5. verb

    turn sharply; change direction abruptly

    curve, cut, slew, slue, swerve, trend, veer
    see moresee less


    peel off

    leave a formation

    swerve off course momentarily
    type of:


    change orientation or direction, also in the abstract sense

  6. verb

    cause to sheer

    sheered her car around the obstacle”
    see moresee less

    type of:

    channelise, channelize, direct, guide, head, maneuver, manoeuver, manoeuvre, point, steer

    direct the course; determine the direction of travelling

  7. adverb


    “he fell
    sheer into the water”

  8. adverb

    straight up or down without a break


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