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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective But during the Late Mississippian period—which spanned from about 330 million to 325 million years ago, according to ’s George Dvorsky—much of North America was covered by shallow seas. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian Magazine, "Jaw of 330-Million-Year-Old Shark Discovered in Kentucky Cave," 4 Feb. 2020 Prop planes loaned from a larger island nearby scan the shallow seas. Seija Rankin,, "Read an exclusive excerpt of Saint X, the buzzy new novel about a missing teenager," 22 Jan. 2020 The displays cover history from the time the land that is now Alabama was covered by a shallow sea to the development of the Saturn V moon rocket in Huntsville and beyond. Mike Cason |, al, "Walk through 200 years of Alabama history at Bicentennial Park," 31 Dec. 2019 The Hesperian era was a time, starting around 3.7 billion years ago, when Mars had active volcanoes and plenty of water in shallow seas and lakes. John Wenz, Popular Mechanics, "We Now Have a Good Idea When Martian Oceans Started Dying," 7 Oct. 2019 The sands that built this region were laid down in what was once a warm, shallow sea, with magnetic minerals trapped in place as sediments drifted to the quiet ocean floor and compacted to form new rock layers. National Geographic, "Earth's magnetic field flips much more frequently than we thought," 2 Oct. 2019 In the case of Greater Adria, most of it was underwater, covered by shallow seas, coral reefs and sediments. Ashley Strickland, CNN, "A lost continent has been found under Europe," 23 Sep. 2019 That is due in part to geography, with high winds and shallow seas, and in part to policy. The Economist, "Lessons from Britain, the world’s biggest offshore wind market," 21 Sep. 2019 And as water froze into glaciers, sea levels dropped, isolating shallow seas and creating niches for speciation. Joshua Sokol, Science | AAAS, "Veil of dust from ancient asteroid breakup may have cooled Earth," 18 Sep. 2019 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 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 Fewer green weeds mean lower dissolved oxygen levels, especially in the shallows, further reducing fish activity. Outdoor Life, "3 Killer Ice Fishing Tactics For Mid-Winter Pike, Walleyes, and Panfish," 17 Jan. 2020 Tight shots of their faces are some of the film's most breathtaking like when the bewitched would-be Batman wades into the shallows lit only by the moon on a quest for some mermaid tail. Garrett Mitchell, azcentral, "'The Lighthouse' is a grim nautical tale starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe," 24 Oct. 2019 Wheeled trolleys help the athlete get the waveski into the water but pop off in the shallows to maintain the performance of the board. James Lynch, Popular Mechanics, "These Surfboards Help Injured Athletes Reclaim What They Love," 25 Dec. 2019 From the coast, flats action on redfish and trout was excellent until the cold front, which pushed a lot of bait out of the shallows. Frank Sargeant, al, "Friday Fishing Report: What’s biting in muddy waters?," 6 Dec. 2019 The islands appear out of the ocean after two hours over open water—first one, then five, then dozens of dots of dark jungle ringed by bright halos of shallows. Alex Perry, Outside Online, "The Last Days of John Allen Chau," 24 July 2019 Blue herons fed in the shallows; minnows darted around my feet. David Kelly, Los Angeles Times, "Heading south in Steinbeck’s footsteps, with a Prius and a plan," 5 Oct. 2019 The rest of the women rolled up their jeans and stayed in the shallows. Zan Romanoff, Bon Appétit, "I Thought Taking Pictures on Vacation Was a Waste of Time Until I Saw This Photo of Me," 6 Nov. 2019

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about shallow

Time Traveler for shallow

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for shallow

Last Updated

24 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Shallow.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on shallow

What made you want to look up shallow? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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