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Consider the following paragraph (Huffington Post):

Ronald Post died Thursday morning at a prison hospital where he'd been treated on and off since 2011, a state prisons spokeswoman said. He was a week shy of his 54th birthday.

What does the last sentence mean? What are its particular connotations?

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closed as off-topic by Marthaª, tchrist, choster, James McLeod, MετάEd Jul 28 '13 at 20:00

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Questions that can be answered easily by looking at general references are considered off topic here. You can find the answer to this question by looking up ‘shy’ in any dictionary. –  Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 28 '13 at 11:47

1 Answer 1

It simply means the death occured one week before he was to turn 54. See Def. #6 in Collins, which also mentions that that usage of the word is chiefly North American.

The term isn't only be used for ages and time; it could be used for other numerical amounts, too. For example:

I wanted to buy two tickets, but I was three dollars shy [of having enough money to purchase a second ticket].

I need to start dieting soon. My current weight is 4 pounds shy of my all-time high.

The heat wave continues in the west, with temperatures just a few degrees shy of breaking records.

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Per the OED, it was originally betting slang, first surfacing in the late 1800s in the United States. The first citation given there is “1895 Funk’s Stand. Dict. s.v., — Having a less amount of money at stake than is called for by the rules of the game; short; as, to be shy a dollar in the pool.” A more recent provided citation is: “1975 R. Stout Family Affair (1976) iv. 46 — I merely thought some women were a little shy on brains, present company not excepted.” –  tchrist Jul 28 '13 at 13:39
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Notwithstanding that the definition from Collins mentions this usage as mainly N.Am., I disagree. I wouldn't have said that such usage is unusual in the UK, and ODO doesn't make that distinction. –  TrevorD Jul 28 '13 at 14:49

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