I don't know the exact meaning of the phrasal verb: "Shut down". There seems to be one little button on Windows which turns the computer off, and is called: shut down. Yesterday, I was watching a TV show where two siblings were competing to know who would get more customers, after a while one won it, and seeing that by winning it, he made his sister feel bad because she got fired due to lack of customers, therefore he decides to "shut his tent down" - Guys, I can't believe you SHUT DOWN your tent just for me.

So, what does "shut down" exactly mean? I have noticed that "shut down" may mean "turn off", but could anyone explain to me what are the others meanings?

Edit 1 - The siblings were competing to know who would get more customers by selling food in a tent. - There are also other examples using the phrasal verb "shut down", such as: Shut her down, Shut me down, I will shut you down. What do they mean?

I have also already heard "Shut down" in a game called League of Legends, when a player's got a kill score, like: Killed 15 players and died 0 times, and when someone kills the player with a kill score, A warning pops up saying: Shut down!

What does it mean? I presume it may mean something like: Stopped!

  • 3
    At first glance it looks as if they were selling things (operating "businesses") from tents, so presumably the relevant definition is if a shop, school, factory, or business shuts down, or if someone shuts it down, it closes, usually permanently. Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 14:32
  • Yeah, FumbleFingers, exactly.
    – Davyd
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 14:44
  • Where did you watch that show? On YouTube? Could you please post a link to it here and tell the time when they say that? Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 14:47
  • @CookieMonster - It was on Netflix, the TV-Show is called: Jessie, it's about a girl who moved to New York in order to get a job as an actress, but she ends up becoming a Nanny of 4 rich kids of two famous directors. I will attach the image here: imgur.com/a/mC9Yk
    – Davyd
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 15:00
  • 2
    @DavydDiniz there are actually more possible meanings for "shut down" than listed here. In the context of "turning something off" it can be used figuratively to mean "shut someone up", for example. "The moderator turned off the candidate's microphone to shut down his overly-long speech". It can also mean "suppress", "the government moved in troops to shut down the protest".
    – Andrew
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 15:16

5 Answers 5


to shut something down simply means to make something nonoperational. When you shut your computer down, you bring it into a nonoperational state. If authorities shut a business down (by the way, another term that's used to refer to a company or business in English is operation), they legally close it down thereby making it nonoperational.

This idiom can also have a third meaning:

3 [transitive] informal to stop someone from doing something, especially to stop a player from having the freedom to move around or play well

So, to sum things up, in simple terms shut down just means to prevent something from keeping doing its thing by, possibly, liquidating it.

Example of a more colloquial usage:

He tried to ask her out, but she shut him down completely.

This is how this expression can be used in sports:

Our team will need to shut down their passing game if we are to succeed.

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    +1 @Cookie for inclusion of the idiomatic meaning, but I think an example would make it clearer. Something like: "He tried to ask her out, but she shut him down completely." Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 19:13

To "shut down" means to stop doing business it can be used to mean either involuntary or voluntary action.

The police raid shut down the illegal gambling operation in the basement of the liquor store.


The clothing store at the mall is shutting down because it does not make enough money

It is meant in a similar way; the "shut down" button stops all operations on the computer

  • Got it. But what do "shut her down", "shut him down" mean?
    – Davyd
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 14:39
  • 2
    To shut a person down means to stop a person from doing business or an activity of some kind. Say someone was selling food from a truck, and the police told him to stop, then you could say "the police shut him down", or "the police shut his business down", either is accurate.
    – mstorkson
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 14:42
  • 1
    I guess the problem is that "running" has no interaction between the competitors. You didn't do anything to Usain Bolt, you simply ran a faster time than him. I think the phrase implies that you actively prevented him from winning, like in league, you kill the player to shut them down.
    – mstorkson
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 18:06
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    So, to use "shut down" something that needs physical strenght or interruption has to be done?
    – Davyd
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 18:13
  • 2
    I think "interaction" is the key. It does not need to be physical. Congress can pass a law that "shuts down" the mining industry. But it is congress doing something to the mining industry.
    – mstorkson
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 18:19

a shutting down, as of a factory, school, or machine; a termination or suspension of operations, services, or business activity: a partial government shutdown. so any termination is called a shut down process.


If you consider the logic behind the verb to shut:

shut (shŭt):

  • To block entrance/passage; close
  • To confine in a closed space
  • To exclude from a closed space
  • To fold up or bring together the parts of ...
  • To cause to stop operating

It may be easier to understand the different contexts where this verb and the respective phrasal verbs can be used (with a few examples):

  • shut off – you are off limits to certain place (you may not stand on or in it anymore):

    loners who shut themselves off from the community

    [they are now isolated since they excluded themselves from there]

  • shut your mouth/eyes – you were speaking to or looking at/after someone and you ceased this activity:

    people who shut their eyes to poverty

    [no longer concerned with porverty]

  • shut up – if you were speaking up, you stopped doing so:

    I asked him politely to shut up

  • shut down – something was open or up and running and it went down (an end state):
    • The fog shut down rapidly
    • A factory was shut down by an inspection team
    • The school that was shut down for the vacation
    • Player X activity was shut down to an end
    • Shut down (the long Minnesota winter) like the white lid of a box —F. Scott Fitzgerald

Even if you take down out in any of the examples above, the phrase's purpose remains the same.

Notice that the verb itself connotes an action of closure or ending, and thus its derivatives connote a similar meaning.


I have also already heard "Shut down" in a game called League of Legends, when a player's got a kill score, like: Killed 15 players and died 0 times

This particular usage may be confusing or paralleling the phrase for shut out (definition 2) (or shutout), a sports term meaning that one team was unable to score for the entire game. It isn't commonly used for all sports.

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