ad·​um·​brate | \ˈa-dəm-ˌbrāt, a-ˈdəm- \
adumbrated; adumbrating

Definition of adumbrate 

transitive verb

1 : to foreshadow vaguely : intimate the social unrest that adumbrated the French Revolution

2 : to suggest, disclose, or outline partially adumbrate a plan

3 : overshadow, obscure bubbling optimism, not at all adumbrated by difficulties

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from adumbrate

adumbration \ ˌa-​(ˌ)dəm-​ˈbrā-​shən \ noun
adumbrative \ a-​ˈdəm-​brə-​tiv \ adjective
adumbratively adverb

Did You Know?

You aren't likely to find "adumbrate" in children's stories or on the sports pages. That's not because this shady word is somehow off-color, but rather because it tends to show up most often in academic or political writing. In fact, some usage commentators find it too hard for "ordinary" use (although they are hard-pressed to define "ordinary"). Art and literary critics have long found it useful, and it's a definite candidate for those oft-published "lists of words you should know" (especially for vocabulary tests). You might remember "adumbrate" better if you know that it developed from the Latin verb adumbrare, which in turn comes from "umbra," the Latin word for "shadow." To "adumbrate," then, is to offer a shadowy view of something.

Examples of adumbrate in a Sentence

the strife in Bloody Kansas in the 1850s adumbrated the civil war that would follow

Recent Examples on the Web

The helicopter crash, on the other hand, is a narrative dead end, merely adumbrating the portrait that Mr. Davenport will draw of Mr. Bezos as unflappable. Randall Stross, WSJ, "Stargazers See a Business Plan," 15 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'adumbrate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of adumbrate

1537, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for adumbrate

borrowed from Latin adumbrātus, past participle of adumbrāre "to shade, represent by means of light and shade, sketch, outline," from ad- ad- + -umbrāre, verbal derivative of umbra "shadow" — more at umbrage

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about adumbrate

Listen to Our Podcast about adumbrate

Statistics for adumbrate

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for adumbrate

The first known use of adumbrate was in 1537

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on adumbrate

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


by force of circumstances

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

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


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!