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[sil-oo-et] /ˌsɪl uˈɛt/
a two-dimensional representation of the outline of an object, as a cutout or configurational drawing, uniformly filled in with black, especially a black-paper, miniature cutout of the outlines of a person's face in profile.
the outline or general shape of something:
the slim silhouette of a skyscraper.
a dark image outlined against a lighter background.
verb (used with object), silhouetted, silhouetting.
to show in or as if in a silhouette.
Printing. to remove the background details from (a halftone cut) so as to produce an outline effect.
Origin of silhouette
1790-1800; < French à la silhouette, after Etienne de Silhouette (1709-67), French finance minister
Related forms
unsilhouetted, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for silhouetted
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He saw them laughing, flushed, silhouetted against the green, distant trees.

    Viviette William J. Locke
  • Each figure for a moment was silhouetted against the sky, for the sun was low.

    The Leopard Woman Stewart Edward White
  • They were silhouetted against the sky and were moving back and forth.

  • He gestured with one plump hand toward the silhouetted ship.

    The Indulgence of Negu Mah Robert Andrew Arthur
  • For a second he was silhouetted against a skyline, then he plunged down.

    Rimrock Trail J. Allan Dunn
  • The figure of a woman was silhouetted against the yellow light of the hall.

British Dictionary definitions for silhouetted


the outline of a solid figure as cast by its shadow
an outline drawing filled in with black, often a profile portrait cut out of black paper and mounted on a light ground
(transitive) to cause to appear in silhouette
Word Origin
C18: named after Étienne de Silhouette (1709–67), French politician, perhaps referring to silhouettes as partial portraits, with a satirical allusion to Silhouette's brief career as controller general (1759)
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 silhouetted



1798, from French silhouette, in reference to Étienne de Silhouette (1709-1767), French minister of finance in 1759. Usually said to be so called because it was an inexpensive way of making a likeness of someone, a derisive reference to Silhouette's petty economies to finance the Seven Years' War, which were unpopular among the nobility. But other theories are that it refers to his brief tenure in office, or the story that he decorated his chateau with such portraits.

Silhouette portraits were so called simply because they came into fashion in the year (1759) in which M. de Silhouette was minister. [A. Brachet, "An Etymological Dictionary of the French Language," transl. G.W. Kitchin, 1882]
Used of any sort of dark outline or shadow in profile from 1843. The verb is recorded from 1876, from the noun. The family name is a Frenchified form of a Basque surname; Arnaud de Silhouette, the finance minister's father, was from Biarritz in the French Basque country; the southern Basque form of the name would be Zuloeta or Zulueta, which contains the suffix -eta "abundance of" and zulo "hole" (possibly here meaning "cave").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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