Sheer Meaning


Like many words in the English language, there are several different definitions of the word sheer. There is one that comes to mind first, and then others that are less common but also can show up in speech and writing. If someone is talking about a sheer shirt, is that the same meaning as someone who experiences sheer happiness?

Sheer definition

There are three main definitions of the word sheer.

Sheer is used for emphasis

In some cases, sheer is merely used to show that something you are saying needs to be emphasized. For example, someone who experiences sheer happiness has joy that they cannot control, and it probably easily spread to the people all around them. They have nothing that is weighing on them and nothing that hinders their progress.

It was through the sheer force of their will that they decided to go take on the challenge, and actually won!

The sheer terror in her eyes made the entire experience seem all too real for the actor.

Sheer means perpendicular or nearly completely straight

For the description of a piece of land like a mountain, saying that it is sheer means that it stands straight up. Most mountains resemble the shape of a capital “A”, which has slopes on either side of the triangle shape. If you have a sheer slope, however, it goes straight up and down (or nearly as straight as that)! The sides of that mountain or cliff would be more like a lowercase “l”.

The sheer cliff was one of the most difficult mountains to climb in the region, but it attracted a lot of climbers because of that challenge.

Some people get nervous standing at the edge of the sheer precipice, but I have always found heights very exciting!

Sheer means transparent and very thin

If you are talking about a sheer cloth, it means that you can almost see through it. The best example of a sheer piece of clothing would be a bride’s veil. She typically wears this before the wedding ceremony. It goes over her head, but everyone can still see her face. After she walks down the aisle towards the person that she is going to marry, the veil is lifted up again!

Something sheer is typically worn by women. It does not have to be clothes, but it almost always is. Many women will wear something beneath the sheer clothes to create a layered effect.

My favorite shirt is this blue sheer blouse, but it is too thin to wear during the winter.

Titus was surprised to see the sheer scarf in the men’s clothing section, but he thought it would be a good addition to his wardrobe anyways.

Sheer vs. Shear

Sheer and shear are homophones. This means that they have the same sound. However, these two words are very, very different! Do not get them confused.

Shear, like its homophone sheer, has two meanings.

Shear means to cut the wool or fur off (of an animal)

This is something that is usually done by a farmer or some other person. They use a set of shears (like a pair of very large scissors; note that the word is always plural) to cut the wool from a sheep, for example. In this case, shear is a verb.

Examples of Shear in a Sentence

  • The farmed wanted to shear his sheep today, but changed his mind after he saw that the wool was not yet long enough.
  • A sheep that has never been sheared might be heated to death.

Common Things that are Sheer

Sheer curtains (definition 3)

Sheer curtains are cloth pieces that are large enough to cover your windows. If they are sheer, it typically means that they are slightly opaque. They can let the light from outside in when it is day, but other people cannot see through them into your home.

  • This hotel room has blackout curtains and sheer curtains to suit your sunlight needs.

Sheer perfection (definition 2)

Sheer perfection is the highest praise for something that has no flaws. There are absolutely no mistakes that are present.

  • Having you by my side through these challenges has been sheer perfection.

Sheer lingerie (definition 3)

Lingerie (pronounced lon-jir-ay) is women’s underwear. The connotation is that the underwear (both bras and panties) are very attractive. Sometimes they can be covered in lace or otherwise accentuate the attractiveness of the woman who wears them. If it is sheer, that means that you can see through the cloth.

  • I wanted to surprise my husband with my new sheer lingerie!

Sheer cover (definition 3)

Typically, a cover is something that is placed on top of something else. It could be on top of a table or shelf to decorate and protect the furniture, or on top of a box to “hide” it from view. Sheer covers are often used for decoration. People can see through the cover, so they are mainly for decoration.

  • I bought this sheer cover from the Pottery Barn store next door because I thought it would complement the colors of the company well.

Sheer panties (definition 3)

Panties are women’s underwear. Sheer panties are almost always covered in lace, and are used to enhance the attractiveness of someone.

  • The cost difference between these sheer panties and the regular lace panties is a bit unreasonable!

Sheer dress (definition 3)

Because, by definition, you can see through a sheer dress, most women wear them with another layer underneath. They might wear a tank top and leggings, and then put the sheer dress over everything to give a layered look!

  • Sheer dresses are a great fashion choice for the late spring and early autumn because they are comfortable and neither too hot nor too cold.

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