Etymology
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shaft (n.1)
Old English sceaft "long, slender rod, staff, pole; spear-shaft; spear," from Proto-Germanic *skaftaz (source also of Old Norse skapt, Old Saxon skaft, Old High German scaft, German schaft, Dutch schacht, not found in Gothic), which some connect with a Germanic passive past participle of PIE root *(s)kep- "to cut, to scrape" (source of Old English scafan "to shave, scrape, polish") on notion of "tree branch stripped of its bark." But compare Latin scapus "shaft, stem, shank," Greek skeptron "a staff" (see scepter) which appear to be cognates.

Meaning "beam or ray" (of light, etc.) is attested from c. 1300. Sense of "an arrow" is from c. 1400; that of "a handle" from 1520s. Mechanical sense is from 1680s. Vulgar slang meaning "penis" first recorded 1719 on notion of "columnar part" (late 14c.); hence probably shaft (v.) and the related noun sense "act of unfair treatment" (1959), though some early sources insist this is from the notion of a "wound."
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shaft (n.2)
"long, narrow passage sunk into the earth," early 15c., probably from shaft (n.1) on notion of "long and cylindrical," perhaps as a translation of cognate Low German schacht in this sense (Grimm's suggestion, though OED is against it). Or it may represent a separate (unrecorded) development in Old English directly from Proto-Germanic *skaftaz if the original sense is "scrape, dig." The slang sense of shaft (n.1) is punned upon in country music song "She Got the Gold Mine, I Got the Shaft," a hit for Jerry Reed in 1982.
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shaft (v.)
"treat cruelly and unfairly," by 1958, perhaps from shaft (n.1) with overtones of sodomy. Related: Shafted; shafting.
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air-shaft (n.)
long narrow passage for admitting air, 1690s, from air (n.1) + shaft (n.2).
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crankshaft (n.)

also crank-shaft, "shaft turned by a crank," 1803, from crank (v.) + shaft (n.). The basic form of the mechanism appears to date from Roman times.

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scepter (n.)
c. 1300, ceptre, from Old French sceptre (12c.), from Latin sceptrum "royal staff," from Greek skeptron "staff to lean on; royal scepter;" in transferred use, "royalty," from root of skeptein "to prop or stay, lean on." Apparently a cognate with Old English sceaft (see shaft (n.1)). The verb meaning "to furnish with a scepter" is from 1520s. Related: sceptred.
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scape (n.2)
"shaft, stem," c. 1600, from Latin scapus "a stalk, shaft," cognate with Greek skapos "staff," skeptron "staff, scepter" (see scepter).
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ball-bearing (n.)
1874, "method of lessening friction by surrounding a shaft with loose balls;" see ball (n.1) + bearing (n.). They "bear" the friction.
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scopa (n.)
tuft of hairs on a bee's leg, from Latin scopae (plural) "twigs, shoots; a broom, brush," related to scapus "shaft" (see scape (n.2)).
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limber (n.)
"detachable forepart of a field-gun carriage," 1620s, alteration of Middle English lymer (early 15c.), earlier lymon (c. 1400), probably from Old French limon "shaft," a word perhaps of Celtic origin, or possibly from Germanic and related to limb (n.1). Compare related Spanish limon "shaft," leman "helmsman."

The nautical limber "hole cut in floor timbers to allow water to drain" (1620s), however, appears to be unrelated; perhaps from French lumière "hole, perforation," literally "light."
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