View synonyms for shadow


[ shad-oh ]


  1. a dark figure or image cast on the ground or some surface by a body intercepting light.
  2. shade or comparative darkness, as in an area.
  3. shadows, darkness, especially that coming after sunset.
  4. sanctuary in the shadow of the church.

  5. a slight suggestion; trace:

    beyond the shadow of a doubt.

  6. a specter or ghost:

    pursued by shadows.

  7. a hint or faint, indistinct image or idea; intimation:

    shadows of things to come.

  8. a mere semblance:

    the shadow of power.

  9. a reflected image.
  10. (in painting, drawing, graphics, etc.)
    1. the representation of the absence of light on a form.
    2. the dark part of a picture, especially as representing the absence of illumination:

      Rembrandt's figures often emerge gradually from the shadows.

  11. (in architectural shades and shadows) a dark figure or image cast by an object or part of an object upon a surface that would otherwise be illuminated by the theoretical light source. Compare shade ( def 9 ).
  12. a period or instance of gloom, unhappiness, mistrust, doubt, dissension, or the like, as in friendship or one's life:

    Their relationship was not without shadows.

  13. a dominant or pervasive threat, influence, or atmosphere, especially one causing gloom, fear, doubt, or the like:

    They lived under the shadow of war.

  14. an inseparable companion:

    The dog was his shadow.

  15. a person who follows another in order to keep watch upon that person, as a spy or detective.

verb (used with object)

  1. to overspread with shadow; shade.
  2. to cast a gloom over; cloud:

    The incident shadowed their meeting.

  3. to screen or protect from light, heat, etc.; shade.
  4. to follow and observe (a person): All new employees will be assigned a mentor whom they will shadow during their first week at work.

    Spies and secret agents shadowed government officials in clandestine assignments during the Cold War.

    All new employees will be assigned a mentor whom they will shadow during their first week at work.

  5. to represent faintly, prophetically, etc. (often followed by forth ).
  6. Archaic. to shelter or protect.
  7. Archaic. to shade in painting, drawing, etc.


  1. of or relating to a shadow cabinet.
  2. without official authority:

    a shadow government.

  3. unofficial or without public notice; characterized by secrecy or performed in a way that is difficult to detect; clandestine: shadow docket;

    shadow ban;

    shadow docket;

    shadow inflation.


/ ˈʃædəʊ /


  1. a dark image or shape cast on a surface by the interception of light rays by an opaque body
  2. an area of relative darkness
  3. the dark portions of a picture
  4. a hint, image, or faint semblance

    beyond a shadow of a doubt

  5. a remnant or vestige

    a shadow of one's past self

  6. a reflection
  7. a threatening influence; blight

    a shadow over one's happiness

  8. a spectre
  9. an inseparable companion
  10. a person who trails another in secret, such as a detective
  11. med a dark area on an X-ray film representing an opaque structure or part
  12. (in Jungian psychology) the archetype that represents man's animal ancestors
  13. archaic.
    protection or shelter
  14. modifier designating a member or members of the main opposition party in Parliament who would hold ministerial office if their party were in power

    shadow Chancellor

    shadow cabinet


  1. to cast a shadow over
  2. to make dark or gloomy; blight
  3. to shade from light
  4. to follow or trail secretly
  5. often foll by forth to represent vaguely
  6. painting drawing another word for shade

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Derived Forms

  • ˈshadowless, adjective
  • ˈshadower, noun

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Other Words From

  • shad·ow·er noun
  • shad·ow·less adjective
  • shad·ow·like adjective
  • pre·shad·ow noun verb (used with object)

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Word History and Origins

Origin of shadow1

First recorded before 900; Middle English noun shadwe, shadu(e), shadow(e), Old English sceadu, oblique case scead(u)we; Middle English verb shadwe(n), shadu(e) “to shade, provide shade, cast a shadow, protect,” Old English sceadwian “to cover with shadow, protect,” derivative of the noun; compare Old Saxon skadowan, skadoian, Gothic (ufar)skadwjan “to (over)shadow”; shade

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Word History and Origins

Origin of shadow1

Old English sceadwe, oblique case of sceadu shade ; related to Dutch schaduw

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Idioms and Phrases

In addition to the idiom beginning with shadow , also see afraid of one's own shadow ; beyond a (shadow of a) doubt .

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Synonym Study

See shade.

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Example Sentences

The United Nations will meet for a virtual General Assembly later this month in the shadow of a looming funding crisis.

From Ozy

Rodríguez was a shadow of the active and positive person she said she used to be.

The shadow of Tom Brady’s long and storied Patriots career will hang over the team for the foreseeable future, even as No.

That shadow revealed that the middle ring is warped, swooping up on one side and down on the other.

Because having them come into the country and live in the shadows and have jobs that they are overqualified for, I don’t think that’s the American Dream.

From Ozy

Forty-two years after its debut, The Godfather casts a long shadow over American cinema.

Searchers reported seeing a large shadow on the seabed, suggesting the crashed jet has been located.

Brinsley came from behind a police cruiser parked on a busy street in the shadow of the Tompkins Public Houses.

If we begin to see the other as our possession and commodity, our shoe, the shadow of our shadow, is there ever a happy outcome?

They seem to belong to us, and then they freely go—behavior very uncharacteristic of a shadow or a shoe.

Before Ripperda could unclasp his lips to reply, the stranger had opened the door, and passed through it like a gliding shadow.

The man that giveth heed to lying visions, is like to him that catcheth at a shadow, and followeth after the wind.

She looked up in his face, leaning on his arm beneath the encircling shadow of the umbrella which he had lifted.

"We are going into the sunlight, out of the shadow;" and she glanced back at the west, which was of a slaty blackness.

He went on, ruminating on the vain shadow, into which his over-heated ambition to act and to be distinguished, had involved him.


Related Words

Definitions and idiom definitions from Unabridged, based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

Idioms from The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.




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