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

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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

dusk, penumbra, shade, shadiness, umbra

Synonyms: Verb

bird-dog, chase, course, dog, follow, hound, pursue, run, tag, tail, trace, track, trail

Antonyms: Verb

guide, lead, pilot

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Examples of shadow in a Sentence


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.


Police shadowed the suspect for several days. She spent the night shadowing other waiters at the restaurant.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Greeley is an expert at analyzing images to determine the shape and features of geological formations based on shadow and light effects. Popular Mechanics, "Debunking 9/11 Myths: About the Airplanes," 10 Sep. 2019 Yes, in a sense this was a stunt, in that the flickering lights and shadows representing Callas were but a two-dimensional evocation of the real thing. Howard Reich,, "Opera reviews: Maria Callas as hologram; Lyric Opera stars at Millennium Park," 8 Sep. 2019 The full back, who had shone at the 2018 World Cup, was a shadow of his former self, regularly being caught out of position., "Atletico Madrid: Rating All of Los Colchoneros' Summer Signings," 7 Sep. 2019 The Porteous’ Studio, though, is a clean bubble of texture, woodgrain, shadows, and light amid the mossy medieval brickwork and cobblestones. Rick Jordan, Condé Nast Traveler, "My Favorite Airbnb in Edinburgh: A Minimalist Haven in Old Town," 6 Sep. 2019 Though the weekends are still busy, the weekdays have a shadow of the numbers of vacationers pre-Labor Day, and that’s nothing but good for anglers. Frank Sargeant, al, "Fall fishing on Alabama Gulf Coast heats up after crowds thin," 4 Sep. 2019 The tiny body-bags weigh virtually nothing, and the birds are shadows of their living selves. Zachary Lewis,, "Lights Out Cleveland group stands up for birds by turning down the lights," 30 Aug. 2019 Although his batting average tops these toothless Tigers among AL qualifiers, Miguel Cabrera has been a shadow of his former self, slashing .278/.339/.390 with nine home runs and 48 RBIs (also a team high) in 400 at-bats. Houston Chronicle, "On deck: Detroit Tigers at Astros," 18 Aug. 2019 Forestry mills were once the town’s economic engine, but are now a shadow of their former might. Dan Bilefsky, New York Times, "Hometown of Canadian Teenage Murder Suspects Grapples With Infamy," 13 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Parody, satire, or shadow government? Meghnad S, alt parliamentary affairs minister and real-life associate editor with Newslaundry, is quick to point out that AltSarkar is not trying to be the real opposition. Manavi Kapur, Quartz India, "A poll on Twitter has birthed an all-spoof alternative Indian government," 28 Aug. 2019 Other prospects have done this too, Falvey said, and Jorge Alcala was another pitcher who spent time shadowing Berrios this spring in in Fort Myers. Betsy Helfand, Twin Cities, "Mini Makina: Brusdar Graterol finds a mentor in the Twins clubhouse," 9 Sep. 2019 When the 2020 season begins next June, the franchise will have a new name, begin a new 10-year lease with the city of Norwich, and, city and franchise officials hope, the controversy that shadowed the team throughout August will be resolved. Dom Amore,, "As season ends, Connecticut Tigers work to end political controversy, reboot and get back to business of baseball," 2 Sep. 2019 Sunset, the forty-two-year-old French-Hungarian filmmaker László Nemes’s follow-up to his astonishing 2015 debut Son of Saul, is a gothic melodrama and a modernist period piece, set on the eve of World War I and shadowed by impending doom. The New York Review of Books, "J. Hoberman," 7 Mar. 2019 The Bears were intercepted and shadowed by Typhoons from @RAFLossiemouth, supported by a Voyager tanker from @RAFBrizeNorton. NBC News, "Russia says it 'chased away' NATO fighter jet near defense minister's plane," 14 Aug. 2019 Hull let the young educator shadow her on a visit to Grand Prairie and was always available with career and leadership advice to Texas women, Goffney said. Dallas News, "Superintendent killed in motorcycle crash made Grand Prairie a destination district for students," 9 July 2019 And the case could be made that Paul’s maneuvering—shadowed by James—had provided the initial destabilizing push., "The King Maker: Why Rich Paul Will Own the NBA Summer," 12 June 2019 Levin had accompanied Harry on his many engagements and shadowed him for more than a year. Stephanie Nolasco, Fox News, "Prince Harry 'knew how to save himself from collapsing in grief' during Princess Diana's funeral, book claims," 30 Aug. 2018

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.

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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

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Statistics for shadow

Last Updated

10 Oct 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for shadow

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

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More Definitions for shadow



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.
3 : phantom
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

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More from Merriam-Webster on shadow

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for shadow

Spanish Central: Translation of shadow

Nglish: Translation of shadow for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of shadow for Arabic Speakers

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).


to wander slowly or to speak indistinctly

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