Middle English shaven, from Old English sceafan (strong verb, past tense scof, past participle scafen), "to scrape, shave, or pare away; to polish," from Proto-Germanic *skaban (source also of Old Norse skafa, Middle Dutch scaven, German schaben, Gothic skaban "scratch, shave, scrape"), from PIE *skabh-, collateral form of root *(s)kep- "to cut, to scrape, to hack" (for which see scabies).
Related: Shaved; shaving. Original strong verb status is preserved in past tense form shaven. As "remove the hair or beard of with a razor" from mid-13c. Intransitive sense of "shave oneself, remove the beard with a razor" is by 1715. The sense of "remove by slicing or paring action of a keen-edged instrument" is from late 14c., as is the general sense of "cut down gradually by taking off thin pieces." Figurative sense of "to strip (someone) of money or possessions" is attested from late 14c.
c. 1600, "something shaved off;" from shave (v.); The Middle English noun shave (Old English sceafa) meant "tool for shaving." The meaning "operation of shaving the beard" is from 1838. The meaning "motion so close to something as to almost touch it" is by 1834. The figurative phrase close shave "exceedingly narrow miss or escape" is from 1856, on the notion of a slight, grazing touch.
updated on August 12, 2022