sil·​hou·​ette | \ ˌsi-lə-ˈwet How to pronounce silhouette (audio) \

Definition of silhouette

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a likeness cut from dark material and mounted on a light ground or one sketched in outline and solidly colored in
2 : the outline of a body viewed as circumscribing a mass the silhouette of a bird


silhouetted; silhouetting

Definition of silhouette (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to represent by a silhouette also : to project on a background like a silhouette

Other Words from silhouette


silhouettist \ ˌsi-​lə-​ˈwe-​tist How to pronounce silhouette (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for silhouette

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

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Choose the Right Synonym for silhouette


outline, contour, profile, silhouette mean the line that bounds and gives form to something. outline applies to a line marking the outer limits or edges of a body or mass. traced the outline of his hand contour stresses the quality of an outline or a bounding surface as being smooth, jagged, curving, or sharply angled. a car with flowing contours profile suggests a varied and sharply defined outline against a lighter background. a portrait of her face in profile silhouette suggests a shape especially of a head or figure with all detail blacked out in shadow leaving only the outline clearly defined. photograph in silhouette against a bright sky

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Before the age of the photograph, the silhouette, either cut from paper or painted, was the most affordable portrait that could be made. The art enjoyed a golden age in the second half of the 18th and first half of the 19th centuries, when many people collected them. Although silhouettes were well-loved, the man for whom they were named was not: Étienne de Silhouette was France's finance minister under Louis XV and was notorious for both his frugality and his hobby of making cut-paper shadow portraits. The phrase à la Silhouette came to mean "on the cheap," and portraits like the ones he produced were (satirically) bestowed with his name as well.

Examples of silhouette in a Sentence

Noun the silhouettes of buildings against the sky The buildings appeared in silhouette against the sky. My piano teacher has a framed silhouette of Mozart on her wall. a portrait of my mother done in silhouette He admired the sports car's sleek silhouette. Verb in the photograph the majestic mountain is strikingly silhouetted against the setting sun See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Sporting a sleek, steel displacement hull and a classic Benetti silhouette, the vessel was treated to a meticulous refit in 2020 that saw a fresh paint job and new teak deck installed. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 17 May 2022 The swimsuit equivalent of the LBD, this elegant style is a fresh update on a classic silhouette. Lois Alter Mark, Forbes, 5 May 2022 The eye-catching gold chain detail offers a stylish yet sophisticated take on the classic silhouette made with cruelty-free vegan leather. Vogue, 28 Apr. 2022 The ankle-grazing chiffon skirt has a classic A-line silhouette that's paired with an elastic, high-rise waistband that offers a customizable fit. Emily Belfiore, Travel + Leisure, 10 Apr. 2022 The strapless body conscious dress featured four buckles going down the front, adding just a bit of drama to the otherwise classic silhouette. Good Housekeeping Editors, Good Housekeeping, 28 Mar. 2022 This petite wooden stand is designed with a classic silhouette that complements any space, and has a weight capacity of 300 pounds despite being just nine inches tall. Quincy Bulin, Better Homes & Gardens, 21 Jan. 2022 Now the company offers a whole host of fun designs, my favorite of which is this modern version of the classic Wayfarer silhouette. Jakob Schiller, Outside Online, 1 June 2021 Persol revived another ‘60s classic from its portfolio last year, known as the PO3260 silhouette. Demetrius Simms, Robb Report, 26 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The ankles of the Weekender Pants are also elasticized and tapered to master the classic sweatpants silhouette. Emily Belfiore, Travel + Leisure, 14 May 2022 Gvasalia started with many of Balenciaga’s iconic pieces on his mood board and reconsidered them either through material or slight changes to silhouette. Steff Yotka, Vogue, 8 July 2021 People are silhouetted in a window of an apartment building in Hollywood, where a stay-at-home order remains in effect to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Los Angeles Times, 27 Apr. 2020 Amalia is constantly calling out to the family’s late Tia Carmen (musician Maria Sandoval-Moreno), who stands silhouetted in a second-floor window wearing a death mask and plucking a violin. Manuel Mendoza, Dallas News, 26 Mar. 2020 The outlines of the pillars appear to be very delicate, as they are silhouetted against an eerie blue haze in deep space. Fox News, 8 Apr. 2020 The duck crossed a slight rise, 40 yards away, silhouetted for a quick moment like a mule deer making a break over a ridgeline. T. Edward Nickens, Field & Stream, 10 Mar. 2020 The first segment depicts the climbers checking their equipment by headlamp before the camera pans to the rising sun silhouetting the ridge line ahead. Niha Masih, Washington Post, 9 July 2019 The trees are dark, almost silhouetted, and set off against bright skies that occasionally look juice-filled—red or lemon-colored. Zachary Fine, The New York Review of Books, 8 Feb. 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'silhouette.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of silhouette


1783, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1876, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for silhouette


French, from Étienne de Silhouette †1767 French controller general of finances; perhaps from his ephemeral tenure

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The first known use of silhouette was in 1783

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Last Updated

22 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Silhouette.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for silhouette


sil·​hou·​ette | \ ˌsi-lə-ˈwet How to pronounce silhouette (audio) \

Kids Definition of silhouette

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : outline entry 1 sense 1 In the dim light, their faces were just silhouettes.
2 : a drawing, picture, or portrait of the outline of a person or object filled in with a solid usually black color


silhouetted; silhouetting

Kids Definition of silhouette (Entry 2 of 2)

: to represent by an outline : show against a light background An airplane was silhouetted against the sky.

More from Merriam-Webster on silhouette

Nglish: Translation of silhouette for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of silhouette for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about silhouette


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