ad·​um·​brate | \ ˈa-dəm-ˌbrāt How to pronounce adumbrate (audio) , a-ˈdəm- How to pronounce adumbrate (audio) \
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

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Other Words from adumbrate

adumbration \ ˌa-​(ˌ)dəm-​ˈbrā-​shən How to pronounce adumbrate (audio) \ noun
adumbrative \ a-​ˈdəm-​brə-​tiv How to pronounce adumbrate (audio) \ 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 In between, works by contemporaries complicate superficial ideas about his meteoric genius, and small, delicate drawings teem with an abundance of ideas — paintings never made, thoughts adumbrated then abandoned. Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, "Not every Leonardo is in the huge Louvre exhibition. What’s there, though, is brilliant.," 18 Oct. 2019 Nothing in America’s tepid 19th-century contributions to European classical music adumbrated it; nor did the homely and sometimes hokey popular songs of Stephen Foster. Heather Mac Donald, National Review, "The American Songbook," 22 Aug. 2019 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.

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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

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The first known use of adumbrate was in 1537

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Cite this Entry

“Adumbrate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 May. 2021.

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Britannica English: Translation of adumbrate for Arabic Speakers

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