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 Van Moof's latest store opened this month in the shadow of ecommerce giant Amazon's downtown Seattle headquarters and has expansion plans for other cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Matt Mcfarland, CNN, "Why a Dutch bicycle company just landed $40 million from venture capitalists," 16 Sep. 2020 Fresh skin, washes of taupe shadow on the lids, and smacks of Lip Fetish balm completed the look for a natural, healthy glow. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "At Anna Sui, Face Flowers Add a Welcome Touch of Whimsy," 15 Sep. 2020 Instead of a contentious eviction in the shadow of huge debt, Young At Art would be willing to quietly walk away without threats of a lawsuit if their debt is erased, both county and museum officials said Tuesday. Lisa J. Huriash,, "Facing a mountain of debt, Young At Art museum will move rather than be evicted," 1 Sep. 2020 Alpine is near the headwaters of the San Francisco River, in the shadow of Arizona’s third tallest mountain and astride the devil’s own highway. Roger Naylor, The Arizona Republic, "This tiny Arizona mountain town is a perfect cool summer getaway. Here's how to do it," 28 Aug. 2020 Tucked in the shadow of glittering new development in downtown Phoenix, the Edison-Eastlake neighborhood swelters during the summer., "In Phoenix, rising temperatures day and night kill more people each year," 27 Aug. 2020 After all, Tobar’s early novels, for all their brilliance, remain in the shadow of his nonfiction books’ commercial success. Siddhartha Deb, The New Republic, "Héctor Tobar’s Radical Road Trip Novel," 25 Aug. 2020 Even backup quarterback Andy Dalton, in another man’s shadow after nine years starting in Cincinnati, praised both Prescott’s command and his personality. Jori Epstein, USA TODAY, "Dak in the dark: From backyard football to cold-tub conversation, Cowboys QB Prescott leads teammates," 20 Aug. 2020 It’s in color, but Bernardo Bertolucci’s classic is all about the play of shadow and light, especially in an odd dancing scene where venetian blinds and a black-and-white dress combine to fool the eye. Chris Hewitt, Star Tribune, "7 movies that prove the power of good cinematography," 19 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Barry Landy, a Minneapolis attorney who clerked for Nelson in 2012 and 2013, is one of the many mentees to pass through her office — a club that also has included high school students Nelson allowed in her chambers to shadow her over the years. Stephen Montemayor, Star Tribune, "Judge overseeing Floyd family's federal suit no stranger to high stakes litigation," 6 Sep. 2020 China objects to them and often dispatches warships and planes to shadow U.S. vessels. Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY, "What a Biden win or four more years of Trump would mean for the military," 4 Sep. 2020 Contouring was ideal for black-and-white film, a medium of light and shadow, and was used in early Hollywood by makeup artists such as the Polish beautician Max Factor (né Maksymilian Faktorowicz). Rachel Syme, The New Yorker, "The Makeup Artist at Ground Zero of Internet Beauty Culture," 31 Aug. 2020 India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will meet commercial banks and shadow lenders on Thursday to review implementation of loan restructuring programs following Covid-19 related stress. Debjit Chakraborty,, "India’s Finance Minister to Review Loan Revamp Plan With Lenders," 29 Aug. 2020 Rodriguez’s later achievements will always shadow him. Tyler Kepner, New York Times, "Denying Alex Rodriguez, Mets Avoid a Risky Presence in the Owner’s Box," 29 Aug. 2020 Smith, then a 20-something dishwasher at Jaxson’s, had little experience making a sandwich, let alone fudge ripple, so Udell asked him to shadow Moses, Jaxson’s ice cream maker at the time. Phillip Valys,, "Cleveland’s Old Fashion Ice Cream, from Jaxson’s longtime ice cream maker, opens in Miramar," 27 Aug. 2020 The February image shows Phobos eclipsed by Mars’ shadow entirely, when temperatures plunge to minus 189 degrees Fahrenheit, and the March image captures the moon in its waxing phase. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, "NASA Releases Rainbow-Colored Images of Martian Moon Phobos," 15 June 2020 All that asking paid off when Dr. Patrick Greiffenstein, a surgery resident at the time, let Ledet shadow him without hesitation. Alisha Ebrahimji, CNN, "A Black medical student is working the front lines of the pandemic at the same hospital where he once was a security guard," 18 Aug. 2020

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

19 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Shadow.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 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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