shallow

1 of 3

adjective

shal·​low ˈsha-(ˌ)lō How to pronounce shallow (audio)
1
: having little depth
shallow water
2
: having little extension inward or backward
office buildings have taken the form of shallow slabsLewis Mumford
3
a
: 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
shallowly
ˈsha-lō-lē How to pronounce shallow (audio)
-lə-lē
adverb
shallowness noun

shallow

2 of 3

verb

shallowed; shallowing; shallows

transitive verb

: to make shallow

intransitive verb

: to become shallow

shallow

3 of 3

noun

: a shallow place or area in a body of water
usually used in plural but singular or plural in construction
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
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
The lake is shallow, but deep enough to buoy a small water craft for the time being. Lila Seidman, Los Angeles Times, 21 Feb. 2024 The waves are calm and the water is shallow, so swimming is a breeze. Nicole Kliest, Vogue, 20 Feb. 2024 The graves constituted a series of shallow, rectangular pits, one of which contained the skeletal remains of a child in a shrunken position, officials said. Brendan Rascius, Miami Herald, 16 Feb. 2024 The Zodiac council’s concerns are shared by the Artist’s friends, a coterie of shallow characters tasked with providing one-liners and staging an intervention. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 14 Feb. 2024 In his 20th Cork O’Connor adventure, the northern Minnesota lawman’s family’s lives are in danger after the discovery of the shallow grave of a young Ojibwe woman. Mary Ann Grossmann, Twin Cities, 4 Feb. 2024 The earthquake was shallow — just 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) deep, according to the the U.S. Geological Survey — and temblors that hit close to the surface can make the shaking more intense. CBS News, 3 Feb. 2024 But Dexter remains a very nice but shallow guy, whose most admirable moments are usually inspired by his best friend. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 8 Feb. 2024 Somewhere up the mountain, that shallow pond was already starting to freeze over again. Nick Fasciano, Outdoor Life, 8 Feb. 2024
Verb
The entire sea in that area shallowed, freshened, and then dried out, leaving deep desiccation cracks. Howard Lee, Ars Technica, 8 Feb. 2023 Transfer noodles to shallow serving bowl and top with cucumber, cilantro, scallions and sesame seeds. Kate Bradshaw, The Mercury News, 29 Jan. 2024 Valdez lifted a flyball to shallow right, and the Sox stranded their 13th and 14th runners of the game. Alex Speier, BostonGlobe.com, 9 Sep. 2023 Moore hit a ball out to shallow left in the top of the seventh inning that hard-charging Royals left fielder MJ Melendez was unable to field cleanly. Jace Evans, USA TODAY, 17 Aug. 2023 Smith flared a single to shallow right-center to load the bases with no outs, and Martinez took a full-count cutter off the plate for a walk to force home Betts for a 5-5 tie. Mike Digiovanna, Los Angeles Times, 22 July 2023 The father went into the water to help his children and was able to pull them to shallow water, but struggled to maintain his balance. Suzanne Russell, USA TODAY, 3 Aug. 2023 Rolando Camarillo-Cholula, 42, drowned after pulling his three children — ages 13, 11 and 8 — to shallow waters. Julianne McShane, NBC News, 3 Aug. 2023 Witnesses told police their father was able to move all three of them to shallow water before losing his balance and disappearing into the river. Emily Mae Czachor, CBS News, 3 Aug. 2023
Noun
Time to starting gearing up for, planning for, and taking full advantage of the annual bass spawn, when fish concentrate in the shallows to bulk up and start bedding. Shaye Baker, Field & Stream, 21 Feb. 2024 Colorful fish and small reef-sharks school in the shallows, while manta rays and turtles can be seen from jetties and swimming beneath the villas. Tom Weijand, Robb Report, 9 Nov. 2023 Docked in the shallows off an industrial edge of the South Bronx, the Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center is a five-story jail barge that stretches the length of two football fields, resembling a container ship stacked with cargo. Jake Offenhartz, The Christian Science Monitor, 31 Oct. 2023 Instead, choose to spend your time relaxing on the sand, or just splash in the shallows for a refreshing dip and wait for better conditions to take your ocean plunge in peace and safety. Stacey Leasca, Travel + Leisure, 7 June 2023 Any quantum circuit with a low score on one of these three quantum metrics lies in the shallows just off the shores of a classical island, and certainly won’t be the next Shor’s algorithm. Charlie Wood, Quanta Magazine, 19 Oct. 2023 Lewis photographed 11 wayward flamingos—three adults and eight immature birds—feeding in the shallows of the refuge’s southernmost pond. Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, 5 Sep. 2023 At Pearl Resorts’ freshly renovated 108-room property Le Bora Bora, wooden walkways studded with thatched overwater bungalows curve like fern leaves through the aquamarine shallows. Maggie Shipstead, Travel + Leisure, 30 Aug. 2023 Perched on a giant inflatable hot dog, a child paddled through the shallows. Vivian Nereim Andrea Dicenzo, New York Times, 28 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'shallow.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Adjective

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

First Known Use

Adjective

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1510, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Noun

1569, in the meaning defined above

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

Dictionary Entries Near shallow

Cite this Entry

“Shallow.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shallow. Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

shallow

1 of 2 adjective
shal·​low ˈshal-ō How to pronounce shallow (audio)
1
: having little depth
shallow water
2
: showing little knowledge, thought, or feeling
shallowly adverb
shallowness noun

shallow

2 of 2 noun
: a shallow place or area in a body of water
usually used in plural

Medical Definition

shallow

adjective
: displacing comparatively little air
shallow breathing

More from Merriam-Webster on shallow

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!