hollow

1 of 4

adjective

hol·​low ˈhä-(ˌ)lō How to pronounce hollow (audio)
hollower ˈhä-lə-wər How to pronounce hollow (audio) ; hollowest ˈhä-lə-wəst How to pronounce hollow (audio)
1
: having an indentation or inward curve : concave, sunken
hollow cheeks
2
: having an unfilled or hollowed-out space within
a hollow tree
3
: lacking in real value, sincerity, or substance : false, meaningless
hollow promises
a victory over a weakling is hollow and without triumphErnest Beaglehole
4
: reverberating like a sound made in or by beating on a large empty enclosure : muffled
heard a hollow sound when he knocked on the wall
hollowly
ˈhä-lō-lē How to pronounce hollow (audio)
-lə-lē
adverb
hollowness noun

hollow

2 of 4

noun

plural hollows
1
: an unfilled space : cavity, hole
in the hollow of a tree
2
: a depressed or low part of a surface
especially : a small valley or basin

hollow

3 of 4

verb

hollowed; hollowing; hollows

transitive verb

1
: to remove the inside of : to make hollow (see hollow entry 1)
a hollowed tree
hollowing out pumpkins for Halloween
2
: to form by removing the inside of something : to form by making something hollow
usually used with out
rain barrels hollowed out from treesRobert Shaplen
hollowing out a tunnel

intransitive verb

: to become hollow
his cheeks had hollowed

hollow

4 of 4

adverb

1
: so as to have a hollow (see hollow entry 1 sense 4) sound
The sound echoed hollow in the cave.
: in a way that reflects a lack of real value, sincerity, or substance
Their threats rang hollow.
2
: completely, thoroughly
often used with all
"… Edward is always real glad to get some of the old farmhouse goodies. He says they beat city cooking all hollow, and so they do."Lucy Maud Montgomery
Choose the Right Synonym for hollow

vain, nugatory, otiose, idle, empty, hollow mean being without worth or significance.

vain implies either absolute or relative absence of value.

vain promises

nugatory suggests triviality or insignificance.

a monarch with nugatory powers

otiose suggests that something serves no purpose and is either an encumbrance or a superfluity.

a film without a single otiose scene

idle suggests being incapable of worthwhile use or effect.

idle speculations

empty and hollow suggest a deceiving lack of real substance or soundness or genuineness.

an empty attempt at reconciliation
a hollow victory

Examples of hollow in a Sentence

Adjective There was a hollow spot in the field. there's a noticeably hollow spot in the mattress where he has been sleeping Noun The owls nested in the hollow of a tree. made a little hollow in her mound of mashed potatoes and filled it with gravy Verb They hollowed the log to make a canoe.
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
The world confronts Israel over its occupation of Palestinian lands But these warnings are starting to ring a little hollow. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 23 Feb. 2024 The new series is emotionally hollow, tonally dissonant and yells its themes at the audience like an unhinged political podcast. Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, 22 Feb. 2024 Roaring in loud and hollow tones, the ancient teacher stands all withered, badly dressed, and drawn, a textbook in his hand. Heather Wilhelm, National Review, 22 Feb. 2024 And the bike looks slick; Moots integrates all the wires and hoses into the hollow frame, providing a more streamlined aesthetic. Nathan Borchelt, Travel + Leisure, 16 Feb. 2024 By imagining a snake pit of twisting, interlocking, hollow metal tubes. Erica Huang, Scientific American, 1 Feb. 2024 Budgeting and manufacturing issues are real, but that doesn’t make the casting any less hollow. Jocelyn Silver, Vogue, 29 Jan. 2024 In caves adorned with rock art, archaeologists have found pestles, a vomiting spatula and a hollow bird bone snuff tube—paraphernalia associated with attempts to commune with the spirit world. Sean Kingsley, Smithsonian Magazine, 11 Jan. 2024 Gently brush the tops and sides of the challahs with the liquid, sprinkle with the seeds, and bake until the crust is deeply golden brown and the bottoms sound hollow when tapped, 25 to 30 minutes. Caron Golden, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10 Jan. 2024
Noun
The coconut octopus was sitting in a small hollow in the sand. Alan Taylor, The Atlantic, 20 Feb. 2024 Of course, nests in natural cavities do not get cleaned out and birds reuse the hollow repeatedly until the hole fills up. Taylor Piephoff, Charlotte Observer, 31 Jan. 2024 Hanging in the hollow above the oval, moodily lit by Masha Tsimring, is Nick Vaughan and Jake Margolin’s vast rigging of ropes and pulleys and fabric panels, suggesting a ship and also a spiderweb. Jesse Green, New York Times, 19 Jan. 2024 These tiny birds, at 4 to 5 inches long, are currently facing population decline as their natural roosts — hollows of large, old trees — have been destroyed over the years from deforestation. Maura Fox, San Diego Union-Tribune, 13 Oct. 2023 Since contour products are meant to deepen the hollows of your facial structure and emulate shadows, these products will typically not have shimmery finishes, as those tend to throw light rather than absorb it (like a shadow). Alyssa Brascia, Peoplemag, 12 Nov. 2023 With portions carved as rounded bumps and curving hollows, the shiny forms make a sly visual connection with the bubbling asphalt surface at the La Brea Tar Pits. Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times, 20 Oct. 2023 And yet …) All through Merrily’s opening scene, Groff’s eyes are dead hollows — deep, dark wells with reservoirs of tears way down at the bottom, threatening to make their way up. Sara Holdren, Vulture, 10 Oct. 2023 The tree fell under its own weight, landing with surprising softness at the bottom of the hollow. Joshua Rothman, The New Yorker, 13 Nov. 2023
Verb
Many roads still follow their original routes, worn deep into hillsides and hollows over the creeping years. Jayne Orenstein, Washington Post, 7 Feb. 2024 Cassidy is right to note how morally hollow our society has become. Matthew Malec, National Review, 27 Dec. 2023 Make that happen for them with the essential risotto tool: a wooden spoon hollowed by a hole in the center. Alex Erdekian, Condé Nast Traveler, 1 Dec. 2023 In North America, the loss of large, old-growth trees could reduce the ranks of forest specialists, such as martens and fishers, members of the weasel family that den inside tree hollows. Emily Anthes, New York Times, 15 Oct. 2023 Cut the top off of an apple, and hollow it out with a melon baller. Kate Franke, Woman's Day, 21 Aug. 2023 Single-crystal diamond rotors have, until now, been infeasible because of the difficulty in hollowing them out. IEEE Spectrum, 8 June 2023 When government is a monolith and oversight vacant, the FBI’s misuse of CHSs hollows public trust and leaves some families devastated. Brett Forrest, Time, 7 June 2023 Chimpanzees are highly adept at using a wide range of tools—cracking open nuts with stones, sponging up water from tree hollows with leaves and unearthing nutritious plant roots with digging sticks. Heather Pringle, Scientific American, 1 Oct. 2016
Adverb
That notion rings hollow to Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands, one of the environmental organizations that originally petitioned to protect fishers in Oregon in 2000. oregonlive, 19 May 2020 But the Iranian government's tendency to point the finger at Washington, or other malicious foreign actors, for unrest at home is ringing hollow now. Eliza MacKintosh, CNN, 13 Jan. 2020 This argument rings hollow, since college sports already sit on an uneven playing field. Sean Gregory, Time, 1 Oct. 2019 But the call for peace rings hollow today when the past and future so miss the mark. Lucy Dacus, New York Times, 6 Aug. 2019 Despite all the runs and belting that Khalid can do, his voice rings hollow, an untethered reverberation against slick, genre-melding production. Washington Post, 5 Aug. 2019 The command rings hollow as a packaging slogan, but Smith lays it out there as a pointed provocation, part of the show's larger assertion that acts of nurture and nationhood, art and humanity are profoundly linked. Leah Ollman, latimes.com, 3 July 2018 The idea that these laws are intended to make women and children safer rings hollow. Willie Parker, Glamour, 5 Apr. 2018 And some say his compassion for those affected by Harvey rings hollow given his lack of support for addressing climate change, which many see as exacerbating such major disasters. Linda Feldmann, The Christian Science Monitor, 30 Aug. 2017 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Adjective

Middle English holgh, holugh, holwe, formally identical with holgh hollow entry 2, with adjectival meaning apparently after hol, holle "hollow, sunken," going back to Old English hol — more at hole entry 1

Noun

Middle English holgh, holough "hole, burrow, hollow of the hand," going back to Old English holh "cavity, hole," going back to *hulha-, probably extended form of Germanic *hula- "hollow, sunken" — more at hole entry 1

Verb

Middle English holowghen, holowen, holwen, derivative of holgh, holwe hollow entry 1

Adverb

derivative of hollow entry 1

First Known Use

Adjective

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Adverb

1601, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of hollow was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near hollow

Cite this Entry

“Hollow.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hollow. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

hollow

1 of 2 noun
hol·​low ˈhäl-ō How to pronounce hollow (audio)
1
: an empty space within something : hole
2
: a low spot in a surface
especially : valley

hollow

2 of 2 adjective
1
: curved inward : sunken
hollow cheeks
2
: having a hole inside : not solid throughout
hollow tree
3
: lacking value, sincerity, or meaning
hollow victory
hollow promises
4
: being like a sound made in or by beating on a large empty enclosure : muffled
a hollow roar
hollow verb
hollowly
ˈhäl-ō-lē How to pronounce hollow (audio)
-ə-lē
adverb
hollowness noun

Medical Definition

hollow

noun
: a depressed part of a surface or a concavity
the hollow at the back of the knee

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