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


shadower \ ˈsha-​dō-​ər How to pronounce shadow (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 Yente’s sharp nose is pointed straight up at the ceiling, casting a defiant shadow on the wall. Olga Tokarczuk, The New Yorker, 13 Sep. 2021 The pandemic is back in the headlines, casting a long shadow on a battered retail industry. Greg Petro, Forbes, 10 Sep. 2021 With the grandeur of pro sports in Los Angeles casting a long shadow, the memories of many high school sports careerd can fade into darkness. Eric Sondheimer Columnist, Los Angeles Times, 6 Sep. 2021 The variant is already casting a shadow over the new school year, with some schools, including a middle school in Fredericksburg, Va., temporarily returning to virtual learning amid new outbreaks. New York Times, 31 Aug. 2021 The largest such cutoff in history, affecting more than 300,000 in Massachusetts, is taking place as the coronavirus pandemic that caused unprecedented job losses escalates once again, casting a shadow over a still shaky employment landscape., 28 Aug. 2021 But a lot of concerns are casting a shadow on election day. Chris Foran, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 12 Aug. 2021 Companies are often reluctant to come forward when they’ve been hit because of the risk of casting a shadow over their brand, said Kurtis Minder, a ransomware negotiator and founder of the cybersecurity firm GroupSense. Washington Post, 27 July 2021 The coronavirus pandemic is casting a constant shadow over the games, which will have no fans in attendance besides VIPs and foreign dignitaries. USA TODAY, 23 July 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb To answer that call, Islah diversified its programming, with both the fun (paintball tournaments) and the inspirational (field trips to local businesses and the opportunity for youths to shadow store owners). Los Angeles Times, 17 Sep. 2021 Dixon seized the opportunity to shadow the cobbler and dove deeper into his footwear obsession foreshadowing a blessing in disguise. Greg Emmanuel, Essence, 16 Sep. 2021 Lou Trivino will routinely climb the Coliseum bullpen mound and, several times without a baseball, shadow his delivery. Matt Kawahara, San Francisco Chronicle, 9 Sep. 2021 Under the Teen Team program, launched this spring, students shadow reporters, photographers and others at the Express-News and receive one-on-one guidance on their reporting projects. San Antonio Express-News, 8 Sep. 2021 Busy agents are always looking for helping hands and not being on payroll should enable you to shadow these agents. Expert Panel, Forbes, 8 Sep. 2021 Viv isn’t crazy about the idea but gives in, and so begins a unique opportunity for Jesse to shadow his uncle on the job. Peter Debruge, Variety, 2 Sep. 2021 Because they are made without a full lower court record, detailed briefs, or oral arguments, shadow docket orders are typically short, light on reasoning, and often unsigned. Henry Gass, The Christian Science Monitor, 2 Sep. 2021 But again, the status of that seismic change is up in the air with conferences shadow boxing their way through expansions and subsequent alliances. Michael Casagrande |, al, 30 Aug. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The sooner, the better as this transit has a pre-shadow period starting before the retrograde itself hits. Meghan Ros, Glamour, 1 Sep. 2021

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

Buying Guide

Our team at The Usage has selected the best digital cameras of 2021.

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

Dictionary Entries Near shadow



shadow band

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for shadow

Last Updated

20 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Shadow.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Sep. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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 : trail
: 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


transitive verb

Medical Definition of shadow (Entry 2 of 2)

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

More from Merriam-Webster on shadow

Nglish: Translation of shadow for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of shadow for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Dog Words Quiz

  • shiba puppy more or less demanding cuddles
  • Which of the following animals has a dog in its etymology?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!