Definition of shadow in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ˈʃadəʊ/


1A dark area or shape produced by a body coming between rays of light and a surface: trees cast long shadows
More example sentences
  • Two Senshi sat there watching some displays, their shapes casting huge shadows in the fain light from the monitors.
  • One of his favorite motifs was the mermaid whose undulating body allowed light to cast shadows over the surface.
  • The Peledrim Forest itself looked sinister and forbidding, and the trees cast long shadows in the dim light of the setting sun.
silhouette, outline, shape, contour, profile;
penumbra, umbra
1.1 [mass noun] Partial or complete darkness, especially as produced in this way: the north side of the cathedral was deep in shadow (shadows) a stranger slowly approached from the shadows
More example sentences
  • The Axis told her it would be better to blend in with, shadow on shadow, darkness on black.
  • Anonymous figures emerge from deep shadow, often the striped shadows of the tracks.
  • Remember: not all that walks in shadow is darkness.
shade, shadowiness, darkness, gathering darkness, dimness, semi-darkness, twilight;
gloom, gloominess, murkiness, murk, obscurity
literary gloaming
rare tenebrosity, umbrage
1.2 [mass noun] The shaded part of a picture.
Example sentences
  • Line quality is consistently easy and illusionistic shadow is largely uniform and tastefully dramatic.
  • As Gowing says, Vermeer's rendering of shadow not only obscures line, it interrupts and denies it.
  • Lines are often bold and thick, and the tight, even hatching sometimes dissolves in to smooth gradations of shadow.
1.3A dark patch or area on a surface: her face was pale and there were shadows under her eyes
More example sentences
  • His hair was still a bit long and rather floppy, yet it wasn't streaked with silver, and his eyes still looked fairly tired with small, dark shadows hanging beneath each.
  • She looked as if she had been crying because her cheeks were red and puffy and her eyes looked red-rimmed with dark shadows beneath them.
  • He was much too pale, except for the dark shadows beneath his eyes.
1.4A region of opacity on a radiograph: shadows on his lungs
2Used in reference to proximity, ominous oppressiveness, or sadness and gloom: the shadow of war fell across Europe only one shadow lay over Sally’s life
More example sentences
  • An ominous shadow hung over me, encasing my soul in darkness.
  • Now, the shadow of sadness had grown, and Anne began to grow lonely at night.
  • In the array of colors lay hidden shadows, unshed tears, and embers of a poetic fire he couldn't help but love.
cloud, black cloud, pall;
gloom, gloominess, blight;
2.1Used in reference to something insubstantial or fleeting: a freedom that was more shadow than substance
More example sentences
  • She had to chase them and somehow capture them - but how in blazes was she supposed to ‘capture’ a memory, a fleeting shadow in her mind?
  • With haste, this shadow rode, a fleeting figure among the stable, unmoving objects of nature, the trees and bushes.
  • The difference between contemplating preemptive war and jumping at shadows can become perilously thin.
2.2Used in reference to a position of relative inferiority or obscurity: he lived in the shadow of his father
More example sentences
  • That goes a long way in the halls of local high schools, where they would otherwise spend their adolescence obscured by the shadows of the jocks and cheerleaders.
  • It was that damn Voltaire - his shadow obscured just about everyone else.
  • This series will continue to sink into obscurity, remaining where it belongs: in the shadow of much better giant robot series.
2.3 [with negative] The slightest trace of something: she knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was lying
More example sentences
  • My favorite haunt in London, without a shadow of a doubt!
  • But suddenly, he knew without a shadow of a doubt who this woman was.
  • The last thing she remembered seeing was the smirking face of Kyle Stratford, and she knew without a shadow of a doubt that they had been set up.
slightest bit, trace, scrap, shred, crumb, particle, ounce, atom, iota, scintilla, jot, whit, grain, tittle, jot or tittle;
Irish  stim
informal smidgen, smidge, tad
archaic scantling, scruple
trace, hint, suggestion, suspicion, ghost, glimmer, flicker
2.4A weak or inferior remnant or version of something: this fine-looking, commanding man had become a shadow of his former self
More example sentences
  • That is to say, a facsimile, a carbon copy, a wisp of a ghost of a shadow of a bagel.
  • In memory only part of experiences are seen as they really were, while others fade into a shadow of themselves.
  • Wall Street and the City would be a shadow of themselves.
inferior version, poor imitation, apology, travesty;
ghost, spectre, phantom;
2.5An expression of perplexity or sadness: a shadow crossed Maria’s face
More example sentences
  • Her expression suddenly changed as a shadow crossed.
  • She turned to look out at the street, and let the shadows swallow her expression.
  • She stopped herself when she thought she saw the tiniest hint of a shadow cross David's expectant face.
3An inseparable attendant or companion: her faithful shadow, a Yorkshire terrier called Heathcliffe
More example sentences
  • She had become her shadow, following her around like a string.
constant companion, inseparable companion, alter ego, second self, Siamese twin;
close friend, bosom friend, intimate
informal bosom pal
rare fidus Achates
3.1A person secretly following and observing another: no matter where Johnson went, his shadow stayed with him
More example sentences
  • Being fascinated by the beauty of the park, she never noticed the shadow following her.
  • I already had a shadow and another shadow following my other shadow.
informal tail
3.2A person that accompanies someone in their daily activities at work in order to gain experience at or insight into a job.
Example sentences
  • My apprentice, who is my faithful shadow, and I discuss and analyze the day's events.
3.3 [usually as modifier] British The opposition counterpart of a government minister or ministry: the shadow Chancellor
More example sentences
  • No wonder he landed the post of shadow arts minister, albeit briefly.
  • Each group drafted a ‘chapter’ as the basis of every shadow minister's policy.
  • Here the culture secretary defends her record, and shadow arts minister Hugo Swire and senior British archaeologists present an alternative view.
4 short for eyeshadow.
Example sentences
  • Lengthening and thickening mascaras, shimmery lip glosses and shadows often take away the attention of the cheeks.
  • Outlining the entire eye with a smoky shadow or muted eye pencil and adding lash-plumping mascara lends immediate impact.
  • An eye-shadow brush made of sable is the best brush for cream or powder shadows.


[with object]
1Envelop in shadow; cast a shadow over: the market is shadowed by St Margaret’s church a hood shadowed her face
More example sentences
  • The bright, clear light in his paintings appears like an Arts and Crafts article of faith, casting aside the heavily shadowed tonalities of the Victorians.
  • She had her hood up, shadowing her face once again, but the cloak couldn't cover her sensible attire - in fact, the same attire she always wore - since she was riding.
  • Their faces were pale, but one did not know if they had eyes or ears, for they wore a hood that shadowed their faces.
overshadow, cast a shadow over, envelop in shadow, shade, block off the light to;
darken, dim
2Follow and observe (someone) closely and secretly: he had been up all night shadowing a team of poachers
More example sentences
  • I was shadowed last night by a couple of blacksuits.
  • ‘If they are shadowing us,’ Garcia said, ‘they'll track us to the moon.’
  • The British ships could only hope to shadow her at ever-increasing distances, rather than pursue her.
follow, trail, track, dog someone's footsteps, keep watch on;
stalk, pursue, hunt
informal tail, keep tabs on, keep a tab on
2.1British (Of an opposition politician) be the counterpart of (a government minister or a ministry): he formerly helped to shadow the Foreign Office
More example sentences
  • Ever since the fall of the monarchy executive power had nominally been vested in a council of ministers, but each minister was shadowed by a specialist committee of the Convention.
  • In opposition, he gained experience of a variety of issues, first shadowing foreign affairs, then becoming Labour's Treasury spokesperson.
2.2Accompany (someone) in their daily activities at work in order to gain experience at or insight into a job: the placement might involve shadowing a manager
More example sentences
  • The applicant confirmed that she needed training and that shadowing a Court Manager was the correct course before a person goes into such a post.
  • Sheehan and a team of architects have spent months shadowing doctors, nurses, and patients at Northwest as they plan a new emergency room and inpatient wing.
  • Obviously, I don't shadow Chris all the time - the poor guy - [but] we talk often.



be frightened of one's shadow

Be very timid or nervous.
Example sentences
  • They always were portrayed in movies as being frightened of their shadow and that is the way they came across in real life.

cast a shadow on (or over)

Spoil or diminish (something): the controversy continues to cast a shadow on her career
More example sentences
  • Sibling rivalries can cast a shadow on adulthood relationships within families, marriages, even work.
  • The announcement of a nuclear test cast a shadow on his nomination.
  • An injury to the England striker cast a shadow over the game.

wear oneself to a shadow

Completely exhaust oneself through overwork.



Example sentences
  • Once in contact with a convoy, shadowers from the pack transmitted position reports to the shore staff, who then directed the pack on to the target, and sent a medium-frequency homing signal to draw in the pack.
  • The two girls gave each other high-fives and laughed about losing their shadowers.
  • We used the multipass texturing, real time shadower, real time lightning, pixel and vertex shaders, etc… so that we can use every natural event to influence the gameplay.


Example sentences
  • The silent eternity of a shadowless corner house, the view of a deserted street - you can't get enough of the virtuosity of these momentary recordings, the play with colour, light and contrast.
  • You won't have a shadowless future, you can be assured.
  • Seemingly, the last popular adaptation to the shadowless lamp was the so-called Isis lamp, which presumably drew its name from the Egyptian goddess who, among many attributes, was the maker of the sunrise and giver of heavenly light.


Old English scead(u)we (noun), oblique case of sceadu (see shade), sceadwian 'screen or shield from attack', of Germanic origin; related to Dutch schaduw and German Schatten (nouns), from an Indo-European root shared by Greek skotos 'darkness'.

Words that rhyme with shadow


For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: shadow

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.