shad·​ow | \ ˈsha-(ˌ)dō How to pronounce shadow (audio) \

Definition of shadow

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : the dark figure cast upon a surface by a body intercepting the rays from a source of light
2 : partial darkness or obscurity within a part of space from which rays from a source of light are cut off by an interposed opaque body
3 : a small degree or portion : trace
4 : an attenuated form or a vestigial remnant
5a : an inseparable companion or follower
b : one (such as a spy or detective) who shadows someone
6a : an area near an object : vicinity
b : pervasive and dominant influence
7 : a shaded or darker portion of a picture
8 : a reflected image
9 : shelter from danger or observation
10a : an imperfect and faint representation
b : an imitation of something : copy
11 : phantom
12 shadows plural : dark sense 1a
13 : a source of gloom or unhappiness
14 : a state of ignominy or obscurity


shadowed; shadowing; shadows

Definition of shadow (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to cast a shadow upon : cloud
2a : to follow especially secretly : trail
b : to accompany and observe especially in a professional setting
3 : to represent or indicate obscurely or faintly often used with forth or out
4 archaic : shelter, protect
5 archaic : shade sense 5
6 obsolete : to shelter from the sun
7 obsolete : conceal

intransitive verb

1 : to pass gradually or by degrees
2 : to become overcast with or as if with shadows



Definition of shadow (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : of, relating to, or resembling a shadow cabinet shadow minister of defense
2a : having an indistinct pattern shadow plaid
b : having darker sections of design shadow lace

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from shadow


shadowless \ ˈsha-​dō-​ləs How to pronounce shadowless (audio) , -​də-​ləs \ adjective
shadowlike \ ˈsha-​dō-​ˌlīk How to pronounce shadowlike (audio) , -​də-​ˌlīk \ adjective


shadower \ ˈsha-​dō-​ər How to pronounce shadower (audio) , -​də-​wər \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for shadow

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Verb

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of shadow in a Sentence

Noun The tree cast a long shadow across the lawn. You can see your own shadow on a sunny day. Part of the valley was in shadow. He saw something moving in the shadows. I sensed a shadow of disappointment in his expression. Verb Police shadowed the suspect for several days. She spent the night shadowing other waiters at the restaurant.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The show went on — even in the shadow of a local surge in new coronavirus cases — prerecorded Monday night in Travis Park to be streamed on H-E-B’s YouTube channel late Friday. Andres Picon,, "San Antonio’s official Christmas tree lighting moved online — and back in time — to avoid crowds downtown," 27 Nov. 2020 In the photo, the mandala is in shadow but Belknap stands arms raised overhead in celebration in a patch of sunlight. Pam Kragen, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Cardiff artist finds connection, healing in sand mandala beach drawings," 26 Nov. 2020 The changes will impact climbers scaling the peak and local people who live in the shadow of it. Rasha Aridi, Smithsonian Magazine, "Into Thicker Air and Onto Thinner Ice: How Climate Change Is Affecting Mount Everest," 20 Nov. 2020 In the shadow of the volcano There are no roads into Katmai. Melissa Findley, National Geographic, "Destinations on the rise for 2021," 20 Nov. 2020 Lavigne isn’t interested in seeing a memorial for the Buena Vista gravesite sitting in the shadow of a massive petrochemical complex. Popular Science, "In Louisiana’s ‘Cancer Alley,’ a Black community battles an industry that threatens its health—and history," 17 Nov. 2020 Archaeologists unearthing the Gjellestad ship are working practically in the shadow of one of the largest burial mounds in Scandinavia, known as the Jell Mound, probably the resting place of an Iron Age ruler. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "This farmer’s field was once a powerful stronghold in Iron Age Norway," 14 Nov. 2020 Young transgender people have been growing up in the shadow of a complicated dynamic, Renna acknowledges. Susan Miller, USA TODAY, "As Transgender Awareness Week rolls out, young trans people have a powerful message: We are thriving," 13 Nov. 2020 On a stretch of grass just below the school, in the shadow of the Wasatch Mountains and yet blanketed by sunshine on an unusually warm Halloween afternoon, about a thousand people milled about. Julie Jag, The Salt Lake Tribune, "A Utah youth football league of 6,000 kids played an 11-week season. Very few got COVID-19.," 10 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Greenfield seems content to let Trump, for better or worse, shadow her opponent. Thomas Beaumont, Star Tribune, "Tied to Trump fate, Ernst walks tightrope in dead heat Iowa," 13 Oct. 2020 When conceiving of his retreat, Ashoka referred to the work of the 20th-century Mexican architect Luis Barragán and his longtime collaborator, the sculptor-painter Mathias Goéritz — in particular, their explorations of form, light and shadow. Michaela Trimble, New York Times, "A Glass House in the Mexican Desert," 29 Oct. 2020 The Cardinals were determined to stop wide receiver DK Metcalf by assigning top cornerback Patrick Peterson to shadow him all over the field. oregonlive, "Seattle Seahawks collapse in overtime and lose to the Arizona Cardinals: 10 studs and duds," 26 Oct. 2020 Puppetry takes so much work, and especially shadow puppetry has a lot of building elements to it. Chris Hewitt, Star Tribune, "Audiences will climb to the roof of a Minneapolis museum for unsettling 'Bug Girl'," 12 Oct. 2020 The late-March event — an illusion of natural light and shadow that casts a moving snake on the pyramid’s steps — usually attracts tens of thousands of visitors. Washington Post, "For the ‘New Wonders of the World,’ 2020 was a quiet year," 16 Oct. 2020 Yoga teaches me that to be embodied means to honor both the light and shadow. Danielle Doby, Allure, "Breast Cancer Taught Me to Love My Body," 14 Oct. 2020 Hold them up vertically to get a better idea of what the color will look like, and move them around the room—colors can shift drastically depending on how much light and shadow the area gets. Emma Bazilian, House Beautiful, "These Tricks Will Make Choosing a Paint Color So Much Easier," 9 Oct. 2020 The blocks are piled irregularly, pushing forward and back from one another in ways that create a rich display of sculptural depth, and light and shadow. Steven Litt, cleveland, "Church and State project sets higher standard for architecture of new apartment buildings in Cleveland," 4 Oct. 2020

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

See More

First Known Use of shadow


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 4


1906, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for shadow


Middle English shadwe, from Old English sceaduw-, sceadu shade

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about shadow

Time Traveler for shadow

Time Traveler

The first known use of shadow was before the 12th century

See more words from the same century

Statistics for shadow

Last Updated

30 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Shadow.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for shadow


How to pronounce shadow (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of shadow

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: a dark shape that appears on a surface when someone or something moves between the surface and a source of light
: an area of darkness created when a source of light is blocked
: a very small amount of something



English Language Learners Definition of shadow (Entry 2 of 3)

: to cover (something) with a shadow
: to follow and watch (someone) especially in a secret way
: to follow and watch (someone who is doing a job) in order to learn how to do the job yourself



English Language Learners Definition of shadow (Entry 3 of 3)

used to describe the members of the main opposition party in British politics who would be given important positions in the government if their party won a national election


shad·​ow | \ ˈsha-dō How to pronounce shadow (audio) \

Kids Definition of shadow

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the dark figure cast on a surface by a body that is between the surface and the light My shadow stays with me.
2 : shade entry 1 sense 2 The valley was in shadow.
4 : a very little bit : trace I believe his story beyond a shadow of doubt.
5 : something that causes a bad feeling The news cast a shadow over the party.
6 shadows plural : darkness caused by the setting of the sun


shadowed; shadowing

Kids Definition of shadow (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to cast a shadow upon Trees shadowed the ground.
2 : to follow and watch closely especially in a secret way


shad·​ow | \ ˈshad-(ˌ)ō, -ə(-w) How to pronounce shadow (audio) \

Medical Definition of shadow

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : partial darkness or obscurity within a part of space from which rays from a source of light are cut off by an interposed opaque body
b : a dark outline or image on an X-ray photograph where the X-rays have been blocked by a radiopaque mass (as a tumor)
2 : a colorless or slightly pigmented or stained body (as a degenerate cell or empty membrane) only faintly visible under the microscope

Medical Definition of shadow (Entry 2 of 2)

: to perform shadow-casting on freeze-dried and shadowed myosin molecules

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on shadow

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


Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


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!