[ shad-oh ]
See synonyms for: shadowshadowedshadowingshadows on

  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.

  1. shadows, darkness, especially that coming after sunset.

  2. shelter; protection: sanctuary in the shadow of the church.

  3. a slight suggestion; trace: beyond the shadow of a doubt.

  4. a specter or ghost: pursued by shadows.

  5. a hint or faint, indistinct image or idea; intimation: shadows of things to come.

  6. a mere semblance: the shadow of power.

  7. a reflected image.

  8. (in painting, drawing, graphics, etc.)

    • the representation of the absence of light on a form.

    • the dark part of a picture, especially as representing the absence of illumination: Rembrandt's figures often emerge gradually from the shadows.

  9. (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).

  10. 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.

  11. a dominant or pervasive threat, influence, or atmosphere, especially one causing gloom, fear, doubt, or the like: They lived under the shadow of war.

  12. an inseparable companion: The dog was his shadow.

  13. 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.

  1. to screen or protect from light, heat, etc.; shade.

  2. to follow and observe (a person): 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.

  3. to represent faintly, prophetically, etc. (often followed by forth).

  4. Archaic. to shelter or protect.

  5. Archaic. to shade in painting, drawing, etc.

  1. of or relating to a shadow cabinet.

  2. without official authority: a shadow government.

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

Origin of shadow

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”; see also shade

synonym study For shadow

1. See shade.

Other words from shadow

  • shad·ow·er, noun
  • shad·ow·less, adjective
  • shad·ow·like, adjective
  • pre·shad·ow, noun, verb (used with object) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use shadow in a sentence

  • He did not look back, but he seemed to see the shadower on his trail.

    Frank Merriwell's Bravery | Burt L. Standish
  • Old Broadbrim watched the shadower for some time and came to the conclusion that he was really watched.

    Old Broadbrim Into the Heart of Australia | Author of "Old Broadbrim"
  • About this time I discovered that several people needed looking after, and I sent for a boy shadower.

    The Diamond Coterie | Lawrence L. Lynch
  • As a divorce-suit shadower he was equally resourceful and equally successful.

    The Shadow | Arthur Stringer
  • The wicked curved knife doubtless concealed under the belt of the apache turned the scale decisively in the mind of the shadower.

    Swirling Waters | Max Rittenberg

British Dictionary definitions for shadow


/ (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

  1. the dark portions of a picture

  2. a hint, image, or faint semblance: beyond a shadow of a doubt

  3. a remnant or vestige: a shadow of one's past self

  4. a reflection

  5. a threatening influence; blight: a shadow over one's happiness

  6. a spectre

  7. an inseparable companion

  8. a person who trails another in secret, such as a detective

  9. med a dark area on an X-ray film representing an opaque structure or part

  10. (in Jungian psychology) the archetype that represents man's animal ancestors

  11. archaic, or rare protection or shelter

  12. (modifier) British 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

  1. to shade from light

  2. to follow or trail secretly

  3. (often foll by forth) to represent vaguely

  4. painting drawing another word for shade (def. 13)

Origin of shadow

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

Derived forms of shadow

  • shadower, noun
  • shadowless, adjective

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

Other 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.