Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


noun shad·ow \ˈsha-(ˌ)dō\

Simple Definition of shadow

  • : a dark shape that appears on a surface when someone or something moves between the surface and a source of light

  • : an area of darkness created when a source of light is blocked

  • : a very small amount of something

Full Definition of shadow

  1. 1 :  partial darkness or obscurity within a part of space from which rays from a source of light are cut off by an interposed opaque body

  2. 2 :  a reflected image

  3. 3 :  shelter from danger or observation

  4. 4a :  an imperfect and faint representationb :  an imitation of something :  copy

  5. 5 :  the dark figure cast upon a surface by a body intercepting the rays from a source of light

  6. 6 :  phantom

  7. 7 plural :  dark 1a

  8. 8 :  a shaded or darker portion of a picture

  9. 9 :  an attenuated form or a vestigial remnant

  10. 10a :  an inseparable companion or followerb :  one (as a spy or detective) that shadows

  11. 11 :  a small degree or portion :  trace

  12. 12 :  a source of gloom or unhappiness

  13. 13a :  an area near an object :  vicinityb :  pervasive and dominant influence

  14. 14 :  a state of ignominy or obscurity

shad·ow·less play \ˈsha-dō-ləs, -də-ləs\ adjective
shad·ow·like play \-ˌlīk\ adjective

Examples of shadow

  1. The tree cast a long shadow across the lawn.

  2. You can see your own shadow on a sunny day.

  3. Part of the valley was in shadow.

  4. He saw something moving in the shadows.

  5. I sensed a shadow of disappointment in his expression.

Origin of shadow

Middle English shadwe, from Old English sceaduw-, sceadu shade

First Known Use: before 12th century



verb shad·ow

Simple Definition of shadow

  • : to cover (something) with a shadow

  • : to follow and watch (someone) especially in a secret way

  • : to follow and watch (someone who is doing a job) in order to learn how to do the job yourself

Full Definition of shadow

  • transitive verb
    1. 1 archaic :  shelter, protect

    2. 2 :  to cast a shadow upon :  cloud

    3. 3 obsolete :  to shelter from the sun

    4. 4 obsolete :  conceal

    5. 5 :  to represent or indicate obscurely or faintly —often used with forth or out

    6. 6a :  to follow especially secretly :  trailb :  to accompany and observe especially in a professional setting

    7. 7 archaic :  shade 5

    8. intransitive verb
    9. 1 :  to pass gradually or by degrees

    10. 2 :  to become overcast with or as if with shadows

    shad·ow·er play \-dō-ər, -də-wər\ noun

    Examples of shadow

    1. Police shadowed the suspect for several days.

    2. She spent the night shadowing other waiters at the restaurant.

    Before 12th Century

    First Known Use of shadow

    before 12th century



    adjective shad·ow

    Simple Definition of shadow

    • —used to describe the members of the main opposition party in British politics who would be given important positions in the government if their party won a national election

    Full Definition of shadow

    1. 1 :  of, relating to, or resembling a shadow cabinet <shadow minister of defense>

    2. 2a :  having an indistinct pattern <shadow plaid>b :  having darker sections of design <shadow lace>


    First Known Use of shadow


    SHADOW Defined for Kids



    noun shad·ow \ˈsha-dō\

    Definition of shadow

    1. 1 :  the dark figure cast on a surface by a body that is between the surface and the light <My shadow stays with me.>

    2. 2 :  1shade 2 <The valley was in shadow.>

    3. 3 :  phantom

    4. 4 :  a very little bit :  trace <I believe his story beyond a shadow of doubt.>

    5. 5 :  something that causes a bad feeling <The news cast a shadow over the party.>

    6. 6 shadows plural :  darkness caused by the setting of the sun



    verb shad·ow

    Definition of shadow


    1. 1 :  to cast a shadow upon <Trees shadowed the ground.>

    2. 2 :  to follow and watch closely especially in a secret way

    Seen and Heard

    What made you want to look up shadow? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


    February 13, 2016

    a trying or distressing experience

    Get Word of the Day daily email!


    Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


    How much does a batman (the Turkish unit of measurement) weigh?

    2.2 pounds 196.5 pounds 100 pounds 16.96 pounds
    Name That Thing

    10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.

    SCRABBLE® Sprint

    Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.