Definition of penumbra
- the seventeenth century lay in the penumbra of the middle ages
- —Edward Eggleston
- the penumbra of the Bill of Rights
- a penumbra of secrecy
- a penumbra of somber dignity has descended over his reputation
- —James Atlas
the lunar eclipse began with a subtle darkening of the lunar surface as it passed within the Earth's penumbra
a penumbra of despair fell over the doomed city
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'penumbra.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Every solar eclipse casts an umbra, the darker central area in which almost no light reaches the earth, and a penumbra, the area of partial shadow where part of the sun is still visible. Penumbra can thus be used to describe any "gray area" where things aren't all black and white. For example, the right to privacy falls under the penumbra of the U.S. Constitution; though it isn't specifically guaranteed there, the Supreme Court has held that it is implied, and thus that the government may not intrude into certain areas of a citizen's private life. Because its existence is still shadowy, however, the Court is still determining how much of an individual's life is protected by the right to privacy.
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