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[pi-nuhm-bruh] /pɪˈnʌm brə/
noun, plural penumbrae
[pi-nuhm-bree] /pɪˈnʌm bri/ (Show IPA),
  1. the partial or imperfect shadow outside the complete shadow of an opaque body, as a planet, where the light from the source of illumination is only partly cut off.
    Compare umbra (def 3a).
  2. the grayish marginal portion of a sunspot.
    Compare umbra (def 3b).
a shadowy, indefinite, or marginal area.
Origin of penumbra
1660-70; < New Latin, equivalent to Latin paen- pen- + umbra shade
Related forms
penumbral, penumbrous, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for penumbra
Historical Examples
  • Theron drew a heavy sigh, and let his fingers toy abstractedly with a ribbon on the outer edge of Celia's penumbra of apparel.

  • Each spot is quite sharply divided into an umbra and a penumbra.

    Astronomy for Young Folks Isabel Martin Lewis
  • Two tears, phosphorescent in the penumbra, rolled from the eyes of the painter.

    A Chambermaid's Diary Octave Mirbeau
  • To-day, even, we can see the Dawn: the penumbra is vanishing.

  • The next circle is less dark, and called the penumbra, because it so closely resembles the penumbra.

    Remarks Bill Nye
  • And Porter was still working away, looking ghostly in the penumbra.

    A Top-Floor Idyl George van Schaick
  • The world became a sort of kaleidoscope to us, seen in a dream through the penumbra of an aquarium.

  • But the disappearance of the gods does not yet bring us within the penumbra of history.

  • Now I will try and explain to you what the penumbra is and how it is produced.

  • She saw the door open and limned in a penumbra of darkness the white comely face of a woman.

    A Texas Ranger William MacLeod Raine
British Dictionary definitions for penumbra


noun (pl) -brae (-briː), -bras
a fringe region of half shadow resulting from the partial obstruction of light by an opaque object
(astronomy) the lighter and outer region of a sunspot
(painting) the point or area in which light and shade blend
Compare umbra
Derived Forms
penumbral, penumbrous, adjective
Word Origin
C17: via New Latin from Latin paene almost + umbra shadow
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for penumbra

1660s, from Modern Latin penumbra "partial shadow outside the complete shadow of an eclipse," coined 1604 by Kepler from Latin pæne "almost" + umbra "shadow" (see umbrage). Related: Penumbral.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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penumbra in Science
Plural penumbras or penumbrae (pĭ-nŭm'brē)
  1. A partial shadow between regions of full shadow (the umbra) and full illumination, especially as cast by Earth, the Moon, or another body during an eclipse. During a partial lunar eclipse, a portion of the Moon's disk remains within the penumbra of Earth's shadow while the rest is darkened by the umbra. See Note at eclipse.

  2. The grayish outer part of a sunspot. Compare umbra.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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