Definition of show in English:

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Pronunciation: /ʃəʊ/

verb (past participle shown /ʃəʊn/ or showed)

1Be, allow, or cause to be visible: [no object]: wrinkles were starting to show on her face the glow of a city skyline showed up ahead [no object, with complement]: the muscles of her jaws showed white through the skin [with object]: a white blouse will show the blood a rising moon showed up the wild seascape
More example sentences
  • The man's eyes rolled back so only the whites showed and more blood ran down the brick wall behind him.
  • Her arms, neck, and everything else that showed was white, from the obvious cold.
  • He does this by hurling himself to the floor, arms and legs flailing, with only the whites of his eyes showing.
be visible, be seen, be in view, manifest;
appear, be revealed, be obvious
1.1 [with object] Offer, exhibit, or produce (something) for inspection: an alarm salesperson should show an ID card [with two objects]: he wants to show you all his woodwork stuff
More example sentences
  • Mrs Tunstall offered to show them a video of children in care, but villagers shouted that they did not want to see it.
  • Four of the group began looking at a car and the officer confronted them, saying, ‘Stop, police,’ and showing his warrant card.
  • Immediately after showing them her card, Baird was asked to design an entire line.
1.2 [with object] Put on display in an exhibition or competition: he ceased rather early in his career to show his work [no object]: other artists who showed there included Robert Motherwell
More example sentences
  • A stunning display of David Hockney portraits is to be shown at a new exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery next year.
  • The photographs will be shown in the exhibition room of Darwen library from November 3 to November 21.
  • A cross section of the photographs will be shown at an exhibition in Muckross Church at Easter time.
display, exhibit, put on show, put on display, put on view, expose to view, unveil, present;
launch, introduce, air, demonstrate, set out, set forth, arrange, array, flaunt, parade, uncover, reveal
1.3 [with object] Present (a film or television programme) on a screen for viewing: ITV showed The Enforcer on Saturday night
More example sentences
  • The Trades Unions Congress was shown live on national television.
  • In many respects, this is the reverse of what used to happen when films were shown on television.
  • It's a dark theatre and you can't see anything, not to mention the film that's being shown on the screen.
1.4 [no object] (Of a film) be presented for viewing: a movie showing at the Venice Film Festival
More example sentences
  • Unfortunately for me, the new Harry Potter film was showing on the train and, although the views were great, sadly, I couldn't help but watch the film.
  • It is akin to covering one's ears, or more to point, running in and out of the theater while the film is showing.
  • Like Blackboards, both films showed in Cannes and were jointly awarded the Camera d'Or for best debut feature.
1.5 [with object] Indicate (a particular time, measurement, etc.): a travel clock showing the time in different cities
More example sentences
  • Progress up and down the five-speed box is tracked by an indicator on the dashboard showing you what gear you're in.
  • He was very keen on selling me a desktop clock which would show me the time in Bangkok.
  • She looked up at a clock and it showed her she only had fifteen seconds left.
1.6 [with object] Represent or depict in art: a postcard showing the Wicklow Mountains
More example sentences
  • It is reproduced from a late-1800s picture postcard showing Crookhill Green and the village pond.
  • The TV ad - due to be shown on Wednesday - depicts a young man thinking about how a typical night out could go.
  • Each portrait is of an actor who is shown in his depiction of a protagonist in a play - a portrayal of a portrayal, as it were.
1.7 (show oneself) Allow oneself to be seen; appear in public: he was amazed that she would have the gall to show herself
More example sentences
  • This streaker has committed at least two arrestable offences by showing himself in public and running onto the pitch.
  • Although they do not dare show themselves in public, they are all the more active on the Internet.
  • I was fortunate that one day whilst I was aboard, a Sei whale showed itself and allowed us to get quite close.
1.8 [no object] informal Arrive for an appointment or at a gathering: only two waitresses showed up for work her date failed to show
More example sentences
  • One of those who might have defended his appointment did not show at the conference.
  • Tension was high even before kick-off as the appointed referee failed to show.
  • She asked Amanda to throw a welcome dinner for her and the plan was for a certain gorgeous actor to come along to the party last weekend, but he didn't show.
appear, arrive, come, get here, get there, be present, put in an appearance, make an appearance, materialize, turn up, present oneself, report, clock in, sign in;
British  clock on;
North American  punch in, punch the (time) clock
informal show up
2 [with object] Allow (a quality or emotion) to be perceived; display: it was Frank’s turn to show his frustration a wife who showed increasing signs of mental instability
More example sentences
  • Most of us up grow up in a society that rarely allows us to show our true feelings.
  • They were also different in their attitudes about emotions, showing affection, and sex.
  • A guy was standing in her way, eyes showing amazement and some emotion that looked like relief.
manifest, make manifest, exhibit, reveal, convey, communicate, make known;
indicate, express, proclaim, intimate, make plain, make obvious, signify, evince, evidence, disclose, betray, divulge, give away
2.1Accord or treat someone with (a specified quality): he urged his soldiers to show no mercy [with two objects]: he has learned to show women some respect
More example sentences
  • Then again, if he did spare the soldiers they would show him no mercy.
  • The Bradford Royal Infirmary deserves to be proud of the way all its patients are treated and the respect shown to everyone.
  • According to him, during his presidency the group had shown him scant respect.
2.2 [no object] (Of an emotion) be noticeable: he tried not to let his relief show
More example sentences
  • It struck me that the emotion showing on her face was - more than even her energetic movements - what bonded the artists.
  • Here, she glanced jealously at Madeleine, and it was the first time any emotion had shown on her face.
  • Creighton was matter-of-fact, no emotion showing in his gravely voice.
2.3 [no object] informal (Of a woman) be visibly pregnant: Shirl was four months gone and just starting to show
More example sentences
  • She only recognized a woman was pregnant after she started showing; she had never given thought to what happened before then.
  • Even though she isn't showing, her baby is due next month.
  • She was still in her first trimester, so she wasn't showing yet, but she was suffering from morning sickness.
3 [with object] Demonstrate or prove: experts say this shows the benefit of regular inspections [with clause]: the figures show that the underlying rate of inflation continues to fall
More example sentences
  • The first study fell short of showing a statistically significant benefit.
  • A closer look at the census figures shows a much more disturbing trend.
  • ‘Shipley has been shown by government figures to need more childcare places,’ he said.
prove, demonstrate, confirm, show beyond doubt, manifest, produce/submit proof, produce/submit evidence, establish evidence, evince;
witness to, give substance to, determine, demonstrate the truth of, convince someone, substantiate, corroborate, verify, establish, ratify, validate, authenticate, attest, certify, testify, document, bear out
3.1 (show oneself) Prove or demonstrate oneself to be: [with infinitive]: she showed herself to be a harsh critic [with complement]: the youth soon showed himself a canny batsman
More example sentences
  • It soon showed itself as outdated as the regime it was seeking to challenge.
  • ‘But Bremer soon showed himself closely aligned to the generals, as well as to the neo-cons in Washington and their allies in Jerusalem’.
  • She soon shows herself rather more sophisticated than he is.
3.2Explain or demonstrate something to: [with clause]: he showed the boy how to operate the machine
More example sentences
  • Here is the URL to our online training video with him explaining and showing you what you need to do.
  • I think he took great delight in showing us poor city boys how it is done.
  • Peter had half explained and half shown me what had happened to him over the past two years.
demonstrate to, point out to, explain to, describe to, expound to;
clarify, make clear, illustrate, explicate, expound, elucidate;
teach, instruct someone in, give instructions in, give an idea of, tutor someone in, indoctrinate someone in
3.3 [with object and adverbial of direction] Conduct or lead: show them in, please
More example sentences
  • None of the three girls said a word as the butler returned and offered to show them to their rooms.
  • On arrival, I was handed a pair of pink pyjamas, which all the patients wear, and was shown to the huge dormitory.
  • He shows me in, indicating where he welcomes his home-movie enthusiasts.
escort, accompany, take, walk, conduct, lead, usher, bow, guide, direct, steer, shepherd, attend, chaperone
4 [no object] North American Finish third or in the first three in a race: Greenough was the only other rider clear in round one, but she failed to show for the tiebreaker


1A spectacle or display, typically an impressive one: spectacular shows of bluebells
More example sentences
  • All of these sites are now dominated by buffel and couch grass so that spectacular shows of native flora are but a memory.
  • Not only that, but each June they put on a spectacular show as they burst into misty pale lilac bloom.
  • We have two crocuses that have bloomed and the primulas are putting on a brave show of colour.
display, array, arrangement, exhibition, presentation, exposition, spectacle
2A play or other stage performance, especially a musical.
Example sentences
  • Amy will perform songs from the musicals and the stage show will include a date in her home town Bolton this summer.
  • He performed his first stage show when he was only four and began hitch-hiking at the age of three.
  • He fondly recalls his first foray into musicals being a show about a snowman in which he had to throw pieces of paper as pretend snow.
performance, public performance, theatrical performance, production, staging;
play, drama, film, concert, musical, piece
informal gig
2.1A light entertainment programme on television or radio.
Example sentences
  • I also appeared on radio shows and cable-access television stations throughout the state.
  • Paul is producing comedy shows for BBC Television and has been involved in encouraging new talent.
  • Indeed, his expertise and views are regularly sought both on radio and television shows.
2.2 [usually with adjective or noun modifier] An event or competition involving the public display of animals, plants, or products: a dog show
More example sentences
  • She said the financial health of at least 20 of Yorkshire's annual agricultural shows would be severely affected.
  • There are 16 qualifying shows for this event and this should be a huge attraction both on a local and national level.
  • Huge crowds came from all over Kerry to witness the largest animal show in Europe.
exhibition, demonstration, display, exposition, fair, presentation, extravaganza, spectacle, pageant;
North American  exhibit
2.3 informal An undertaking, project, or organization: I man a desk in a little office. I don’t run the show
More example sentences
  • Who's running this show, anyway?
  • Obviously, I don't run the show (thank God, you're thinking), and it's a free country.
undertaking, affair, operation, proceedings, enterprise, business, venture, organization, establishment
3An outward appearance or display of a quality or feeling: Joanie was frightened of any show of affection
More example sentences
  • I'd be lying if I said I did not enjoy that, because I see it as a show of affection from our fans and I thank them for it.
  • Sixty residents packed into a council meeting in a show of strength against plans to build 450 houses on the land.
  • In a defiant show of solidarity, fans are planning a peaceful march through the city to the ground prior to kick-off.
3.1An outward display intended to give a false impression: Drew made a show of looking around for firewood [mass noun]: they are all show
More example sentences
  • As soon as he walked in all cameras focused on him and his hero pals made an exaggerated show of affection towards him.
  • The show of amity presented by the two men on the front bench yesterday was just that: a show.
  • She resolutely ignores me, making a theatrical show of turning away and yawning.
appearance, display, impression, ostentation, affectation, image, window dressing
pretence, outward appearance, false appearance, front, false front, air, guise, semblance, false show, illusion, pose, affectation, profession, parade
3.2 informal A ludicrous spectacle: now don’t make a show of yourself in front of him
More example sentences
  • I was thinking, ‘I'm just going to leave now and not make a show of myself'.’
  • ‘Oh no,’ they tell the doctors virtuously, between bouts of vomiting, ‘I'd never do that; I wouldn't make a show of myself like that.’
4 Medicine A discharge of blood and mucus from the vagina at the onset of labour or menstruation.
Example sentences
  • How long after having a show did you do into labour?
  • Some women notice a bit of mucus in their pants and may not realise it's a show.
5US & Australian /NZ informal An opportunity for doing something; a chance: I didn’t have a show



all over the show

another way of saying all over the place (see all).

for show

For the sake of appearance rather than for use: the birch logs are just for show; at the moment we’re burning scrap lumber
More example sentences
  • It was a commonplace of Roman food writing to despise complicated dishes designed for show rather than for taste.
  • It seems to me the meetings are being held only for show; I hope I'm wrong.
  • Reading unsympathetically, we may reflect that there's not much he does that isn't for show.

get (or keep) the show on the road

informal Begin (or continue with) an undertaking or enterprise: ‘Let’s get this show on the road—we’re late already.’
More example sentences
  • Regular meetings will commence shortly to get the show on the road and all ideas and suggestions will be welcome.
  • You can bet the budget they were given was not very big, and someone has taken the initiative to get sponsorship to get the show on the road.
  • He thanked all who had kept the show on the road while he was away and who had attended so dutifully to the various aspects of running the club and organising activities.

give the (whole) show away

Demonstrate the inadequacies or reveal the truth of something.
Example sentences
  • Staff working on a job like ours have to be trusted with the main secret and if they are indiscreet can give the whole show away in any case.
  • Autobiographers who want to tell about themselves, without giving the whole show away, have discovered there is more than one way to approach it.
  • That their campaign is merely an effort to sell more milk and not an effort to tell the people the truth about their present denatured diet gives the whole show away.

good (or bad or poor) show!

British informal, dated Used to express approval (or disapproval or dissatisfaction).
Example sentences
  • Suddenly, the toffs' expressions changed: ‘Oh, poor show!’
  • He does, however, manage a raffish ‘good show!’

have something (or nothing) to show for

Have a (or no) visible result of (one’s work or experience): a year later, he had nothing to show for his efforts
More example sentences
  • When you buy, at least at the end of 25 years you have something to show for all that expense.
  • I think in the West we focus very much on externals, on getting things done, achieving things, we have to have something to show for what we do, and we're terribly busy.
  • They are well trained and professional but they don't have a lot to show for these 10 years of working hard.

on show

Being exhibited: her designs were perhaps the most imaginative range on show
More example sentences
  • There's going to be a wide variety of exhibits on show for the house, home and garden.
  • Each child had a sheet to fill in with questions connected with time and numbers and based on the exhibits on show.
  • Hundreds of the exhibits which will be on show have never been seen publicly before.

show one's cards

another way of saying show one's hand.

show cause

Law Produce satisfactory grounds for application of (or exemption from) a procedure or penalty: a notice to show cause why there should not be a committal to prison [attributive]: show-cause notice
More example sentences
  • In January 1994 the auditor published his provisional findings and the notices to show cause why the ten persons should not be surcharged.
  • On 3 June 1999 the Board wrote to Mr and Mrs Mann requiring them to show cause within 14 days why their legal aid certificates should not be revoked.
  • The draft order nisi that has been filed specifies five grounds on which the respondents are to be called on to show cause.

show (someone) a clean pair of heels

informal Run away (from someone) extremely fast.
Example sentences
  • Malton's next score came when Cooke broke from defence and glided past would-be tacklers before handing on to opposite wing Elliot Richardson, who showed a clean pair of heels to his pursuers to get his side's third try.
  • Paul Wrebber's nine-year-old has taken well to fences this season and I expect him to show a clean pair of heels to his six rivals.
  • Retired Probation officer Tony Bowman is showing a clean pair of heels to many of his rivals on the athletics track.

show someone the door

Dismiss or eject someone from a place.
Example sentences
  • Griffiths said: ‘The backbone of any army is its non-commissioned officers and it has always struck me as strange that they are shown the door at 40 when many would want to keep going.’
  • Popular but underachieving players were shown the door.
  • On Tuesday, the chief executive was shown the door.

show one's face

Appear in public: she was so ashamed she could hardly show her face
More example sentences
  • He was asked about it every time he showed his face in public.
  • What kind of guy kidnaps someone with witnesses around and then shows his face in a public store in broad daylight?
  • She was followed closely behind by a doting Rocky, who it seemed had actually combed his hair before showing his face in public.

show the flag

see flag1.

show one's hand

(In a card game) reveal one’s cards.
Example sentences
  • If you have a king in your original hand and don't like your cards you can show your hand to the other player, discard all 5 cards, and pick a new hand of 5 cards from the top of the stock.
  • Once you have a straight of seven cards, you may show your hand face up on the table and say ‘Scatterbrain’.
  • If requested by an opponent, you must show your hand to prove that you had only wild cards.
14.1Disclose one’s plans: he needed hard evidence, and to get it he would have to show his hand
More example sentences
  • And when they came out, the judge basically showed his hand and said that he plans to keep these things sealed.
  • After weeks of speculation, Rangers finally showed their hand when they faxed a formal offer to Rovers yesterday afternoon.
  • They were thought unlikely to show their hand until the details of the redundancy package were fully sorted by the group.

show a leg

[in imperative] British informal, dated Get out of bed; get up: come on, rise and shine, show a leg

show of force

A demonstration of the forces at one’s command and of one’s readiness to use them: the government used low-flying jets over Pristina in a show of force
More example sentences
  • They were deployed more as a show of force than as force aiming to achieve concrete results on the ground.
  • On August 1, in an unmistakable show of force, the Chinese military held its first ever parade of troops and armoured vehicles through Hong Kong.
  • U.S. soldiers and marines made a show of force in and around the area.

show of hands

Pronunciation: /ˌʃəʊ əv ˈhandz/
A vote carried out among a group by the raising of hands, with numbers typically being estimated rather than counted: a show of hands suggested he has little support
More example sentences
  • A union motion calling for the policy to be scrapped was clearly carried on a show of hands.
  • After a while, they switched to voting by a show of hands.
  • Each meeting ended with a vote by a show of hands.

show one's teeth

British Demonstrate or use one’s power or authority in an aggressive or intimidating way: the council showed its teeth for the first time by imposing an economic embargo
More example sentences
  • West Ham had by no means blown themselves out, but early in the second half Albion showed their teeth.
  • Chances were few and far between in the early stages and Clydebank were the first to show their teeth when Tony McPeak headed a cross from Eric Paton only to see it blocked by a defender.
  • She said that the agency ‘would show its teeth to bring that attitude to a swift end’.

show the way

Indicate what can or should be done by doing it first: Morgan showed the way by becoming Deputy Governor of Jamaica
More example sentences
  • A captain who leads by example is showing the way by backing the right men.
  • Waitakere City shows the way to a ‘greener life’ by introducing eco-friendly initiatives throughout the region.
  • He shows the way to healthier eating habits by a slight modification of the traditional Indian diet.

show willing

British Display a willingness to help.
Example sentences
  • He said, ‘There's going to be a bridleway and footpath around the site, and they are planting 700 trees, so they are showing willing.’
  • They showed willing and really got into the spirit of it.
  • He was somewhat disconcerted on the bus when he discovered that two of us had never been bird watching before but since we were keen and showed willing we were quickly accepted.

Phrasal verbs


show something forth

archaic Exhibit something: the heavens show forth the glory of God
More example sentences
  • Parents may say that we believe in certain values and virtues, but fail to show them forth in our lives.
  • He was a man of convictions and had the strength of character to show them forth in his life.
  • As we gain the full consciousness of our true identity, we show it forth in a greater sense of harmony, health, and success, and one by one we attract others who are seeking the same way.

show off

informal Boastfully display one’s abilities or accomplishments: he was showing off, trying to make a really big impression
More example sentences
  • She's worried about making friends and constantly makes up stories about herself and shows off to get attention.
  • Sometimes I'd tease my older students about having boyfriends, or get the younger boys to behave by telling them that they should stop showing off to impress their girlfriends, and quickly everyone would fall in line.
behave affectedly, put on airs, put on an act, give oneself airs, boast, brag, crow, trumpet, gloat, glory, swagger around, swank, bluster, strut, strike an attitude, strike a pose, posture, attitudinize;
draw attention to oneself, blow one's own trumpet
North American informal cop an attitude
Australian/New Zealand informal skite, big-note oneself

show someone/thing off

Display someone or something that is a source of pride: his jeans were tight-fitting, showing off his compact figure
More example sentences
  • Why not show it off to a wider audience and take pride in our achievements.
  • ‘I'm beginning to feel like a monument,’ she says as yet another guide shows her off to a group of rather bemused Japanese tourists.
  • They took the triplets into school and Megan enjoyed showing them off to her pals.
display, show to advantage, exhibit, demonstrate;
parade, make a show of, draw attention to, flaunt, wave, dangle, brandish, vaunt

show out

Bridge Reveal that one has no cards of a particular suit: all these plans went kaput when West showed out on the spade ace
More example sentences
  • She won the first two diamonds, pitching two hearts, drew four rounds of trumps - showing out herself on the second round - and set about the completely impossible task of taking 4 club tricks.
  • ‘East showed out,’ Louie grumbled, ‘so I started the diamonds.’

show someone round (or chiefly North American around)

Point out interesting features in a place or building to someone.
Example sentences
  • Council staff are concerned that they are losing prospective bookings because there is no one in residence at the front of the building to meet prospective clients and show them round.
  • The member of staff showing you round should show an interest in what you want for your child.
  • With an infectious exuberance the two members of staff showed us round, and I learned a great deal from the visit.

show someone/thing up

Expose someone or something as being bad or faulty: it’s a pity they haven’t showed up the authorities for what they are
More example sentences
  • Writing off communism as a fad for silly kids is just as bad as showing it up as a serious menace.
  • It has made me dig out my old diary from 1985-6 which is full of embarrassing, poorly crafted rubbish and shows me up to be the young idiot that I suspected I must have been.
  • Your endorsement of this article shows you up for what everyone knows you to truly be.
expose, reveal, bring to light, lay bare, make visible, make obvious, manifest, highlight, pinpoint, put the spotlight on
(show someone up) informal6.1 Embarrass or humiliate someone: she says I showed her up in front of her friends
More example sentences
  • He always went out of his way to show her up or embarrass her.
  • But rather than showing them up, he has actually drawn something quite impressive from them.
  • Robert wants to become a professor (an exalted position in Britain), so does not want a pushy young intern showing him up.
humiliate, humble, mortify, bring/take down, bring low, demean, expose, show in a bad light, shame, put to shame, discomfit, disgrace, discredit, downgrade, debase, degrade, devalue, dishonour, embarrass;
put someone in their place, make a fool of, chasten, subdue, get the better of, have the last laugh on;
abash, abase, crush, squash, quash, deflate, flatten, make someone eat humble pie
informal put down, settle someone's hash, cut down to size
North American informal make someone eat crow


Old English scēawian 'look at, inspect', from a West Germanic base meaning 'look'; related to Dutch schouwen and German schauen.

Words that rhyme with show

aglow, ago, alow, although, apropos, art nouveau, Bamako, Bardot, beau, Beaujolais Nouveau, below, bestow, blow, bo, Boileau, bons mots, Bordeaux, Bow, bravo, bro, cachepot, cheerio, Coe, crow, Defoe, de trop, doe, doh, dos-à-dos, do-si-do, dough, dzo, Flo, floe, flow, foe, foreknow, foreshow, forgo, Foucault, froe, glow, go, good-oh, go-slow, grow, gung-ho, Heathrow, heave-ho, heigh-ho, hello, ho, hoe, ho-ho, jo, Joe, kayo, know, lo, low, maillot, malapropos, Marceau, mho, Miró, mo, Mohs, Monroe, mot, mow, Munro, no, Noh, no-show, oh, oho, outgo, outgrow, owe, Perrault, pho, po, Poe, pro, quid pro quo, reshow, righto, roe, Rouault, row, Rowe, sew, shew, sloe, slow, snow, so, soh, sow, status quo, stow, Stowe, strow, tally-ho, though, throw, tic-tac-toe, to-and-fro, toe, touch-and-go, tow, trow, undergo, undersow, voe, whacko, whoa, wo, woe, Xuzhou, yo, yo-ho-ho, Zhengzhou, Zhou

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: show

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