Word of the Day


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Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


the hard outside layer of an egg

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun eggshell is very ancient, being first recorded around 1300. It is, of course, a compound noun formed from the nouns ‘egg’ and ‘shell’. The attibutive uses date from the 19th century, while the phrase was first recorded in1860, in a novel called The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.


An eggshell is, most simply and obviously, the shell of an egg, that of a bird or less frequently a reptile. While the closed form of the compound is the most common today, egg-shell is sometimes written with a hyphen or with a space between the two words. Eggshell or eggshell paint refers to a kind of paint that is somewhere between emulsion and gloss, or between matt and shiny. The phrase to walk, tread or simply be on eggshells means to treat someone with great caution for fear of upsetting or angering them. A less common variant is to be walking or treading on eggs. Both versions convey very effectively the idea of someone acting with extreme care. Eggshell is also used as an adjective to describe things that are very thin and delicate, such as a type of very fine china. Eggshell is one of many Macmillan Dictionary entries to which images were added in the most recent update. I will be writing about more of them over the rest of the week.


Eggshell has a tough yet subtle finish and is a superb paint for all woodwork and kitchen & bathroom walls.
(enTenTen15 corpus)

I don’t try to be candy coated. I don’t try to walk on eggshells. I am what I am. Love me or hate me.
(Pink, singer)

Related words

clutch, lay, new-laid, spawn

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

About the author

Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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