verb (used with object)


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

Origin of shadow

before 900; (noun) Middle English sch(e)adew(e), schadow, shadw(e), Old English scead(u)we, oblique case of sceadu shade; (v.) Middle English; Old English sceadwian to protect, cover, overshadow, derivative of the noun; compare Old Saxon skadowan, skadoian, Gothic -skadwjan
Related formsshad·ow·er, nounshad·ow·less, adjectiveshad·ow·like, adjectivepre·shad·ow, noun, verb (used with object)

Synonym study

1. See shade. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for shadow

Contemporary Examples of shadow

Historical Examples of shadow

  • Alone the thick polled alders remain green, and in their shadow the brook is still darker.

    Nature Near London

    Richard Jefferies

  • Margaret saw his shadow as it lingered, but she continued her employment.

  • The germ and shadow and likelihood of each of those acts is in the fashion and line and detail of her garments.

    I, Mary MacLane

    Mary MacLane

  • He had created a new property, as was testified by the vast pyramid of ivory that stood under the shadow of the great nwana-tree!

    The Bush Boys

    Captain Mayne Reid

  • It is easy, says the king, alarmed, for the shadow to go down ten steps.

British Dictionary definitions for shadow



a dark image or shape cast on a surface by the interception of light rays by an opaque body
an area of relative darkness
the dark portions of a picture
a hint, image, or faint semblancebeyond a shadow of a doubt
a remnant or vestigea shadow of one's past self
a reflection
a threatening influence; blighta shadow over one's happiness
a spectre
an inseparable companion
a person who trails another in secret, such as a detective
med a dark area on an X-ray film representing an opaque structure or part
(in Jungian psychology) the archetype that represents man's animal ancestors
archaic, or rare protection or shelter
(modifier) British designating a member or members of the main opposition party in Parliament who would hold ministerial office if their party were in powershadow Chancellor; shadow cabinet

verb (tr)

to cast a shadow over
to make dark or gloomy; blight
to shade from light
to follow or trail secretly
(often foll by forth) to represent vaguely
painting drawing another word for shade (def. 13)
Derived Formsshadower, nounshadowless, adjective

Word Origin for shadow

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

Word Origin and History for shadow

Old English sceadwe, sceaduwe "the effect of interception of sunlight, dark image cast by someone or something when interposed between an object and a source of light," oblique cases ("to the," "from the," "of the," "in the") of sceadu (see shade (n.)). Shadow is to shade (n.) as meadow is to mead (n.2). Cf. Old Saxon skado, Middle Dutch schaeduwe, Dutch schaduw, Old High German scato, German schatten, Gothic skadus "shadow, shade."

From mid-13c. as "darkened area created by shadows, shade." From early 13c. in sense "anything unreal;" mid-14c. as "a ghost;" late 14c. as "a foreshadowing, prefiguration." Meaning "imitation, copy" is from 1690s. Sense of "the faintest trace" is from 1580s; that of "a spy who follows" is from 1859.

As a designation of members of an opposition party chosen as counterparts of the government in power, it is recorded from 1906. Shadow of Death (c.1200) translates Vulgate umbra mortis (Ps. xxiii:4, etc.), which itself translates Greek skia thanatou, perhaps a mistranslation of a Hebrew word for "intense darkness." In "Beowulf," Gendel is a sceadugenga, a shadow-goer, and another word for "darkness" is sceaduhelm. To be afraid of one's (own) shadow "be very timorous" is from 1580s.


Middle English schadowen, Kentish ssedwi, from late Old English sceadwian "to protect as with covering wings" (cf. also overshadow), from the root of shadow (n.). Cf. Old Saxon skadoian, Dutch schaduwen, Old High German scatewen, German (über)schatten. From mid-14c. as "provide shade;" late 14c. as "cast a shadow over" (literal and figurative), from early 15c. as "darken" (in illustration, etc.). Meaning "to follow like a shadow" is from c.1600 in an isolated instance; not attested again until 1872. Related: Shadowed; shadowing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with shadow


In addition to the idiom beginning with shadow

  • shadow of one's self

also see:

  • afraid of one's own shadow
  • beyond a (shadow of a) doubt
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.