shal·​low | \ ˈsha-(ˌ)lō How to pronounce shallow (audio) \

Definition of shallow

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : having little depth shallow water
2 : having little extension inward or backward office buildings have taken the form of shallow slabs— Lewis Mumford
3a : penetrating only the easily or quickly perceived shallow generalizations
b : lacking in depth of knowledge, thought, or feeling a shallow demagogue
4 : displacing comparatively little air : weak shallow breathing


shallowed; shallowing; shallows

Definition of shallow (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

: to make shallow

intransitive verb

: to become shallow



Definition of shallow (Entry 3 of 3)

: a shallow place or area in a body of water usually used in plural but singular or plural in construction

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Other Words from shallow


shallowly \ ˈsha-​lō-​lē How to pronounce shallowly (audio) , -​lə-​lē \ adverb
shallowness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for shallow

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Adjective

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Choose the Right Synonym for shallow


superficial, shallow, cursory mean lacking in depth or solidity. superficial implies a concern only with surface aspects or obvious features. a superficial analysis of the problem shallow is more generally derogatory in implying lack of depth in knowledge, reasoning, emotions, or character. a light, shallow, and frivolous review cursory suggests a lack of thoroughness or a neglect of details. gave the letter only a cursory reading

Examples of shallow in a Sentence

Adjective The shallow end of the pool is only three feet deep. Her boyfriends were all shallow creeps. She could only take shallow breaths. His breathing became very shallow. Noun we waded through the shallows looking for tadpoles
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The ship passed a lighthouse where shallow water washed over a beach. Joanna Klein, New York Times, "Creatures in This Underwater Forest Could Save Your Life One Day," 31 Mar. 2020 Seagrass is found in shallow waters, is a habitat for fish, and protects from coastal erosion. Catherine Garcia, TheWeek, "March 12, 2020," 12 Mar. 2020 While good for rooting out coral-dwelling prey, thalattosaurs’ hard-nosed affinity for shallow waters may have also been their undoing. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, "215-Million-Year-Old, Sharp-Nosed Sea Creature Was Among the Last of Its Kind," 5 Mar. 2020 The overall amount of denitrification is probably greater in shallow water, however, because more organic matter is present there. Erik Stokstad, Science | AAAS, "Fishing trawlers could harm water quality by disrupting seafloor microbes," 3 Mar. 2020 Southern Oil, which primarily operates oil and natural gas properties offshore in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico, generated $5.9 million in earnings on $24.4 million in revenue in the nearly four months Biglari Holdings owned it last year. Patrick Danner,, "Steak n Shake drags down San Antonio’s Biglari Holdings," 24 Feb. 2020 While coral communities can be found at varying depths, shallow-water reefs occupy approximately 110,000 square miles of the sea floor, roughly the size of Nevada -- according to data compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Ashley Lofaso, ABC News, "Sunscreen pollution accelerating demise of coral reefs, experts say," 22 Feb. 2020 Meanwhile, some campaigns are scrambling to avoid suffocating like fish in shallow water at a critical time before the Super Tuesday primaries on March 3. Emily Larsen, Washington Examiner, "Nonbillionaire candidates blow through war chests and scramble for cash," 21 Feb. 2020 For some more relaxed moments, the resort's private Beach Club (accessible by water taxi every 30 minutes) is a joy to spend time at—especially in one of the hammocks or private cabanas suspended over shallow water. Caitlin Morton, Condé Nast Traveler, "9 Spring Break Destinations for Grown-Ups," 21 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb With one out, pinch-runner Tyrone Taylor strayed too far off first base on a popup to shallow left and nearly got doubled off, but was hit in the back by Mejias-Brean’s throw. Tom Kertscher, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Padres beat Brewers 2-1 behind Lamet’s 14 strikeouts," 18 Sep. 2019 The dugout empties, the rest of the team stampedes to shallow left field to find the hero and hug him or tackle him or tear at his jersey. Los Angeles Times, "Column: Electrifying walk-off wins are how these Dodgers roll," 7 Aug. 2019 Pinch-hitter Ryan Braun flied out to shallow right but Tyler Saladino walked to load the bases. Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Brewers 8, Reds 6: Christian Yelich becomes first player in club history with 30 HRs before break," 1 July 2019 The nearshore shallows offered easy travels and a mix of aquatic plant life unfamiliar to us. Colin Diltz, The Seattle Times, "Reader’s Lens | Paddling Lake Ozette," 11 Sep. 2018 Courtney Abbott’s two-out bloop single to shallow right fell just beyond an outstretched Lexy Wright, allowing Katie Templeman to race in from third for the walk-off victory. Steve Bittenbender, The Courier-Journal, "Butler ends its 11-year drought and takes home Sixth Region title," 1 June 2018 Kassandra Espinosa tripled deep down the right-field line and Bridgette Tuxbury drove her home with a single to shallow left. David Furones,, "Cooper City tops St. Thomas Aquinas in extras to advance to states," 12 May 2018 With Cole facing Daniel Descalso, Reddick had to race in for a fly ball hit to shallow left. Bob Mcmanaman, azcentral, "Astros' Gerrit Cole flirts with no-hitter, pitches a gem in rout of Diamondbacks," 4 May 2018 Bonzon reached first on a blooper to shallow left field and managed to score shortly after on a throwing error. Kyle Mcfadden, Howard County Times, "Chapelgate softball gets past Pallotti to remain undefeated in conference play," 1 May 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Use socks and silhouettes in the shallows and on the banks to round out the spread. Joe Genzel, Outdoor Life, "6 Ways to Hunt Snow Geese on Your Own," 16 Mar. 2020 On invasion day, Vincek found himself in a landing craft, rushing toward the shallows at midmorning. Joanne Kimberlin, Washington Post, "75 years after Iwo Jima, a Virginia vet remembers the fight," 22 Feb. 2020 Largemouth action will be slow as the chill moves in, probably for the next week—after that, the March warmup will have them all over the shallows in the feeder rivers. Frank Sargeant, al, "Friday Fishing Report: Heavy rains make fishing difficult for anglers," 21 Feb. 2020 Canada's Capelin Roll Each year around the summer solstice (June 20th this year), the beaches of Newfoundland and Labrador explode in silvery sparkles as millions of capelin fish arrive in the shallows to spawn. Emily Matchar, Smithsonian Magazine, "Nine Rare Natural Phenomena Worth Traveling For," 20 Feb. 2020 In Kim Stanley Robinson’s recent climate change novel, New York 2140, New York City has been devastated by rising seas: The Atlantic Ocean has inundated Brooklyn and Queens, and lower Manhattan now lies in the shallows at high tide. John Patrick Leary, The New Republic, "What Wall Street Really Means When It Talks About “Climate Risk”," 12 Feb. 2020 Most famous of the Old Town bar’s pintxos, la hoguera (the bonfire), is a shallow ramekin filled with a smoking rosemary twig and covered by a Lilliputian grill topped with a thin slice of cod. Sarah Bruning, Condé Nast Traveler, "10 Can’t-Miss Pintxos Bars in San Sebastian, Spain," 4 Feb. 2020 At the port, barges would bring material to and from tankers anchored in Kamishak Bay, which has a series of reefs and shallows. Acacia Johnson, National Geographic, "The risky plan to haul minerals from a mine in the Alaska wilderness," 14 Jan. 2020 Fierce walls of flame forced thousands to abandon their possessions and seek shelter in the shallows. Tim Flannery, The New York Review of Books, "Australia: The Fires and Our Future," 16 Jan. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'shallow.' 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 shallow


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1510, in the meaning defined at transitive sense


1569, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for shallow


Middle English schalowe; probably akin to Old English sceald shallow — more at skeleton

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Time Traveler for shallow

Time Traveler

The first known use of shallow was in the 14th century

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Statistics for shallow

Last Updated

6 Apr 2020

Cite this Entry

“Shallow.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Apr. 2020.

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More Definitions for shallow


How to pronounce shallow (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of shallow

: having a small distance to the bottom from the surface or highest point
: not going far inward from the outside or the front edge of something
disapproving : not caring about or involving serious or important things


shal·​low | \ ˈsha-lō How to pronounce shallow (audio) \
shallower; shallowest

Kids Definition of shallow

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : not deep a shallow stream
2 : taking in small amounts of air shallow breaths
3 : showing little knowledge, thought, or feeling They're shallow people only interested in money.

Other Words from shallow

shallowness noun



Kids Definition of shallow (Entry 2 of 2)

: a shallow place in a body of water usually used in pl.


shal·​low | \ ˈshal-(ˌ)ō, -ə(-w) How to pronounce shallow (audio) \

Medical Definition of shallow

: displacing comparatively little air shallow breathing

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More from Merriam-Webster on shallow

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for shallow

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with shallow

Spanish Central: Translation of shallow

Nglish: Translation of shallow for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of shallow for Arabic Speakers

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