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

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Verb

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Apple has announced new hardware in the shadow of COVID-19. Don Reisinger, Fortune, "Apple releases new MacBook Air, iPad Pro with LiDAR sensor and trackpad support," 18 Mar. 2020 Of course, Tuesday’s primaries took place in the shadow of one such event. Jason Linkins, The New Republic, "It’s Joe Biden’s Party Now," 17 Mar. 2020 In the shadow of Alaska’s Kuskokwim Mountains, nestled in a valley along the banks of a winding river, there’s a town called Takotna with a population of a mere 49 hearty souls. Popular Science, "This Alaskan town is a crucial stop on the Iditarod—for its pie," 13 Mar. 2020 Ninety-four gallerists were scheduled to show at the fair, which Cornell said has grown dramatically each year, despite having launched in the shadow of the Great Recession in 2009. Michael Granberry, Dallas News, "The Dallas Art Fair and the Nasher Prize ceremony become the latest casualties of COVID-19 fallout," 12 Mar. 2020 Burger Stevens opened its first food cart in the shadow of Wilson High School in 2016. oregonlive, "Portland’s 40 best inexpensive restaurants," 11 Mar. 2020 The deal paved the way for a music venue to be built in the shadow of Paul Brown Stadium. Scott Wartman,, "Hamilton County commissioner candidates debate Bengals, transportation and sewers," 6 Mar. 2020 Zermatt, which sits at 5,000 feet in the shadow of the 14,690-foot Matterhorn, is nestled at the dead-end of a long valley in Switzerland's remote southwest. Rick Steves, USA TODAY, "Rick Steves: Switzerland's Matterhorn is worth the hype and here's when you should go," 5 Mar. 2020 Aiyuk has shined for Herm Edwards' team last season, getting 65 receptions for 1,192 yards and eight touchdowns after recording 33 catches for 474 yards and three touchdowns as a junior playing in the shadow of former teammate N'Keal Harry. Jeremy Cluff, azcentral, "NFL mock draft: Could Arizona State's Brandon Aiyuk be a first-round NFL draft pick?," 25 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb No longer must the authorities deploy secret police to shadow opposition figures or plant bugs in their phones. Ben Hubbard, New York Times, "The Rise and Fall of M.B.S.’s Digital Henchman," 13 Mar. 2020 Valentine acknowledged that compensation levels continue to shadow the agency, but asserted its mission has not been compromised. Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY, "Secret Service protection of presidential candidates factors in aggressive crowds, mass shootings," 5 Mar. 2020 In this game Thursday night, expect Ramsey to shadow Titans WR Corey Davis, and expect Davis to have fewer than three catches in that matchup. 2. Andy Benoit,, "How Will the Titans Combat Jalen Ramsey and the Jaguars’ Defense?," 19 Sep. 2019 Federal agents were granted sweeping authorities by Congress to shadow foreign terrorist suspects. Vera Bergengruen, Time, "‘We Are Being Eaten From Within.’ Why America Is Losing the Battle Against White Nationalist Terrorism," 8 Aug. 2019 American Navy ships such as USS Farragut are often shadowed by Iranian ships and the two nations' vessels come into contact on a near-daily basis. Grace Hauck, USA TODAY, "Russian ship 'aggressively approached' a US destroyer in North Arabian Sea, Navy says," 10 Jan. 2020 The report’s dazzle was shadowed by a couple of weak patches. Patricia Cohen, New York Times, "U.S. Added 266,000 Jobs in November. Here’s the Bottom Line.," 6 Dec. 2019 But it’s also shadowed by the specter of current events. Washington Post, "Philip Pullman’s latest book is adventure for an anxious age," 27 Nov. 2019 These familiar questions are now shadowed by the specter of Trump and his movement. Molly Ball, Time, "What Do the Democrats Stand For? Inside a Fight Over America's Future," 25 July 2019

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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Time Traveler for shadow

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for shadow

Last Updated

27 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Shadow.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Apr. 2020.

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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

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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

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