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 When to See a Dermatologist If your list of skin concerns includes deep creases, hollow areas under eyes, under-eye bags that protrude enough to cast shadows, gauntness, a double chin, or a soft or jowly jawline, visit a dermatologist. Jennifer Goldstein, Marie Claire, "Skin Care Tips for Any Skin Type," 6 Jan. 2020 Even locals spend their evenings in the waning shadows, along with tourists from all over the world who’ve made the pilgrimage to see the impressive complex with their own eyes. Brandon Presser, Harper's BAZAAR, "The 20 Best Places to Travel in 2020," 30 Dec. 2019 Anderson said changes in those rules may cast a long shadow. Carolyn Said,, "Big changes coming to H-1B visa lottery," 19 Dec. 2019 Her short life casts a long shadow, marking her as a casualty of both a brutally dysfunctional family — and of America’s ongoing failure to effectively combat child abuse. Emily Palmer, ProPublica, "The Law Says She Should Have Been Protected From Birth. Instead, She Was Left in the Care of Her Drug-Addicted Mother, Who Killed Her.," 18 Dec. 2019 Venture capitalists have a term for the menacing shadow cast by tech Goliaths: the kill zone. Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, "The Real Trouble With Silicon Valley," 17 Dec. 2019 Her short life casts a long shadow, marking her as a casualty of both a brutally dysfunctional family and of America’s ongoing failure to effectively combat child abuse., "Virtually every state fails to follow parts of the main federal child abuse law, known as CAPTA," 14 Dec. 2019 Try this super easy look from @peckisme—start with a dark shadow, smudge with a lighter brown, add glitter or shimmer, and you're set! Emy Rodriguez Flores, Redbook, "15 Beauty Looks to Wear For New Year's Eve," 9 Dec. 2019 Examples include desktop motion blur, planar reflections, multiple shadows, and more. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Inside the Snapdragon 865: Qualcomm reveals the features you'll find in 2020's best Android phones," 4 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Trump has been shadowing Democratic candidates throughout their presidential contest - a practice that will continue as caucuses and primaries begin. David Jackson, USA TODAY, "Trump tells supporters in Wisconsin that Democrats 'cannot protect your family'," 15 Jan. 2020 The Ravens often asked him to shadow the opponent’s best receiver, just ask Bengals wideout Tyler Boyd. Tyler Dragon,, "All-AFC North Team: Defensive backs," 14 Jan. 2020 To sweeten the pot, NBC pays for participants to shadow on up to three episodes before taking the reins. Rebecca Sun, The Hollywood Reporter, "TV Director Lands "Break of a Lifetime" With NBC's Female Forward Initiative," 16 Dec. 2019 In 1855, while the Russians were losing up to three thousand men a day, Trunov spent about four months shadowing a regiment. Emilio Fraia, The New Yorker, "Sevastopol," 9 Dec. 2019 O'Neill's wife, Desiree, and his daughter, Ireland -- who, as a young girl, used to shadow her father during rehearsals -- quickly decided the show would continue. Steve Knopper, Billboard, "How Trans-Siberian Orchestra Manages a Holiday Haul of Nearly $60 Million in Just Seven Festive Weeks," 15 Nov. 2019 In addition, Boone students were able to shadow the Shakes’ professional technicians in preparing for the show. Matthew J. Palm,, "Orlando Shakes takes popular ‘Macbeth’ to students in Boone High School’s new auditorium," 6 Nov. 2019 The grant funds $12,000 annual scholarships for each student in their first two years, money that pays them to shadow older students in labs rather than work their way through college at unrelated jobs, Taylor said. Alia Malik,, "UTSA prepares freshmen for doctorates and research careers with NIH grant," 27 Oct. 2019 Pierre Desir, the starting cornerback the Colts have used to shadow All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in the past, was listed as questionable and will be a game-time decision Sunday. Jim Ayello, Indianapolis Star, "Colts injury report: Secondary depleted ahead of critical game vs. Texans," 18 Oct. 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

17 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Shadow.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 19 January 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

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 insert between existing elements

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