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sil·​hou·​ette ˌsi-lə-ˈwet How to pronounce silhouette (audio)
: a likeness cut from dark material and mounted on a light ground or one sketched in outline and solidly colored in
: the outline of a body viewed as circumscribing a mass
the silhouette of a bird


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silhouetted; silhouetting

transitive verb

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

Did you know?

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.

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

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
Recent Examples on the Web
The collection features a mix of classic silhouettes and more unique frames that Stokes hadn’t been able to find at an affordable price point in the past. Erin Lassner, The Hollywood Reporter, 20 May 2024 Keep scrolling to shop one-piece swimsuits with strapless necklines, side cutouts, and classic silhouettes. Bridget Degnan, Peoplemag, 20 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for silhouette 

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

Word History



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

First Known Use


1783, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1876, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of silhouette was in 1783


Dictionary Entries Near silhouette

Cite this Entry

“Silhouette.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
sil·​hou·​ette ˌsil-ə-ˈwet How to pronounce silhouette (audio)
: a picture (as a drawing or cutout) of the outline of an object filled in with a solid usually black color
: a profile portrait done in silhouette
: the outline of an object seen or as if seen against the light


2 of 2 verb
silhouetted; silhouetting
: to represent by a silhouette
also : to show against a light background
ducks silhouetted against the evening sky
silhouettist noun

More from Merriam-Webster on silhouette

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