Middle English sheld, "frame or rounded plate of wood, metal, etc., carried by an warrior on the arm or in the hand as defense," from Old English scield, scild "shield; protector, defender," originally "board," from Proto-Germanic *skelduz (source also of Old Norse skjöldr, Old Saxon skild, Middle Dutch scilt, Dutch schild, German Schild, Gothic skildus), from *skel- "divide, split, separate," from PIE root *skel- (1) "to cut."
The IE sense evolution of that proposal is uncertain; the ancient notion is perhaps a flat piece of wood made by splitting a log, but Boutkan writes, "it seems more probable to me that the word designated a means of protection, i.e. a separation between the fighter and the enemy."
Shield usually meant a larger defensive device, covering much of the body, as opposed to a buckler. Shield volcano (1911) translates German Schildvulkan (1910). The plate tectonics sense of shield as "large, stable mass of Achaean rock forming a continental nucleus" is by 1906, translating Suess (1888).
Middle English shelden "protect, defend, or shelter (someone or something) from danger or harm; defend by interposition," from Old English gescildan, from the root of shield (n.). Related: Shielded; shielding. Compare German scilden.
updated on August 23, 2022