shad·​ow | \ˈsha-(ˌ)dō \

Definition of shadow 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1 : 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

2 : a reflected image

3 : shelter from danger or observation

4a : an imperfect and faint representation

b : an imitation of something : copy

5 : the dark figure cast upon a surface by a body intercepting the rays from a source of light

6 : phantom

7 shadows plural : dark sense 1a

8 : a shaded or darker portion of a picture

9 : an attenuated form or a vestigial remnant

10a : an inseparable companion or follower

b : one (such as a spy or detective) who shadows someone

11 : a small degree or portion : trace

12 : a source of gloom or unhappiness

13a : an area near an object : vicinity

b : pervasive and dominant influence

14 : a state of ignominy or obscurity


shadowed; shadowing; shadows

Definition of shadow (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

1 archaic : shelter, protect

2 : to cast a shadow upon : cloud

3 obsolete : to shelter from the sun

4 obsolete : conceal

5 : to represent or indicate obscurely or faintly often used with forth or out

6a : to follow especially secretly : trail

b : to accompany and observe especially in a professional setting

7 archaic : shade sense 5

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, -​də-​ləs \ adjective
shadowlike \ˈsha-​dō-​ˌlīk, -​də-​ˌlīk \ adjective


shadower \ˈsha-​dō-​ər, -​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

Shopping List: Step 1: Cover your lids with a light pink shadow (bonus points if there's shimmer), like 17-year-old Charlotte does. Kelsey Stiegman, Seventeen, "5 Snapchat Filter Halloween Costumes You Should Rock IRL," 8 Aug. 2018 The golder-than-gold highlighter, the magenta-and-orange eye-shadow palette, and the mint-green lipstick are just three examples. Sarah Spellings, The Cut, "Rihanna Dropped a New Fenty Beauty Palette, and It’s Spicy," 25 June 2018 The paper, the charcoal, the canvas, the set-ups, the model, the space, the perspective, the shadows, the colors, the smell. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "Old In Art School," 20 June 2018 The warm glow of a street lamp struggles to cut through the pea soup, but the details of the scene remain indefinite, blurry, faintly mysterious, the people’s faces shrouded in shadow, the sky grainy and gray on the old-fashioned film. Andrew Lanham, The New Republic, "Michael Ondaatje’s Haunting Pasts," 8 June 2018 Any movie that deals with an AI computer voice stands in the long, long shadow of 2001. Tom Philip, GQ, "Upgrade Director Leigh Whannell Makes Movies for Himself," 1 June 2018 The sparkly surprises continued with the reveal of three cream shadows, three pressed powders made with a new formula, and two new Ulta Glows. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "Kylie Jenner Unveiled Her Kylie Cosmetics Holiday Collection on Instagram," 14 Nov. 2018 Universal Pictures No remake can escape the shadow of its predecessors, and The Grinch doesn’t try. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "Benedict Cumberbatch voices the Grinch in the new movie. It’s pretty fun!," 9 Nov. 2018 Don’t expect any updates activating Nvidia's hybrid ray tracing for more lifelike lighting, shadows, and reflections in games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider at release, either. Brad Chacos, PCWorld, "Ray traced games won't launch with Nvidia's GeForce RTX graphics cards," 14 Sep. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Photo: Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Wall Street Journal Before the purchase, Ms. Smith took a class for aspiring innkeepers, then shadowed the sellers before taking over. Amy Gamerman, WSJ, "A New Breed of Innkeepers for the Airbnb Era," 8 Nov. 2018 The Loyola Maryland men's lacrosse team will likely task senior defenseman Foster Huggins (20) with shadowing Yale senior attackman Ben Reeves. Edward Lee,, "Men’s lacrosse notes: Area coaches pondering adjusting defense against standout attackmen," 18 May 2018 Romantic writers and painters have struggled to capture the wistfulness of that ocean air, the cloud shadowing those sunny skies; poets have called it forth with the squawk of the seagull. Pat Cunnane, WSJ, "Goodbye to Summer, Just as It Begins," 5 July 2018 Fifteen-year Major League veteran Moe Berg embarks on a dangerous mission, shadowing German physicist Werner Heisenberg for the OSS during World War II. Kevin Crust,, "L.A. movie openings, June 22," 17 June 2018 Yet Salah has also become another pawn in the power politics shadowing the global game. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, "How the World Cup reflects the world," 14 June 2018 But standout sophomore attackman Jeff Teat was held without a goal on one shot and two assists as Maryland shut him off by assigning sophomore defenseman Jack Welding to shadow him all over the field. Edward Lee,, "Reigning men's lacrosse champ Maryland beats Cornell, 13-8, returns to national semifinals," 20 May 2018 But getting the chance, as a high school freshman, to meet LaFace Records head of promotion Shanti Das at a career-planning class and then shadow her for a day inspired her to take a label internship. Billboard, "How Ethiopia Habtemariam Became Universal Music Group's Most Powerful African-American Woman: 'I Love Proving People Wrong'," 28 June 2018 The drone fires off a message via satellite and continues to shadow the fishing boats from a distance. The Economist, "Avast, me hearties," 5 July 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 1


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


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

5 Dec 2018

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 \

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) \

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).


a nest or breeding place

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