ad·​um·​brate ˈa-dəm-ˌbrāt How to pronounce adumbrate (audio) a-ˈdəm- How to pronounce adumbrate (audio)
adumbrated; adumbrating

transitive verb

: to foreshadow vaguely : intimate
the social unrest that adumbrated the French Revolution
: to suggest, disclose, or outline partially
adumbrate a plan
: overshadow, obscure
bubbling optimism, not at all adumbrated by difficulties
adumbration noun
adumbrative adjective
adumbratively adverb

Did you know?

Don’t throw shade our way if you’ve never crossed paths with adumbrate—the word's shadow rarely falls across the pages of casual texts. It comes from the Latin word umbra, meaning “shadow,” and is usually used in academic and political writing to mean “to foreshadow” (as in “protests that adumbrated a revolution”) or “to suggest or partially outline” (as in “a philosophy adumbrated in her early writings”). Adumbrate is a definite candidate for those oft-published lists of words you should know, and its relations range from the quotidian (umbrella) to the somewhat formal (umbrage) to the downright obscure (umbra). But it’s a word worth knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt.

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, 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, 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, 15 Apr. 2018

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'adumbrate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1537, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of adumbrate was in 1537


Dictionary Entries Near adumbrate

Cite this Entry

“Adumbrate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Apr. 2024.

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