Word of the Day : June 5, 2017


verb AD-um-brayt


1 : to foreshadow vaguely : intimate

2 : to suggest, disclose, or outline partially

3 : overshadow, obscure

Did You Know?

You aren't likely to find adumbrate in children's stories or on the sports pages. That's not because this shady word is somehow off-color, but rather because it tends to show up most often in academic or political writing. In fact, some usage commentators find it too hard for "ordinary" use (although they are hard-pressed to define "ordinary"). Art and literary critics have long found it useful, and it's a definite candidate for those oft-published "lists of words you should know" (especially for vocabulary tests). You might remember adumbrate better if you know that it developed from the Latin verb adumbrare, which in turn comes from umbra, the Latin word for "shadow." To adumbrate, then, is to offer a shadowy view of something.


"The opening scenes not only set forth the locale, the leading characters, and the first stage of the plot, but also adumbrate everything to come." — Richard Alleva, The Commonweal, 11 Sept. 2015

"His temper and tendency to violence, adumbrated in the first part of the book, lead not only to his decline as a journalist but also his inability to maintain relationships with the various women he encounters." — Gerald Early, The Washington Post, 10 Nov. 2015

Word Family Quiz

What offspring of Latin umbra is a synonym of offense?



More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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