adjective, shad·ow·i·er, shad·ow·i·est.

resembling a shadow in faintness, slightness, etc.: shadowy outlines.
unsubstantial, unreal, or illusory: shadowy preoccupations.
abounding in shadow; shady: a shadowy path.
enveloped in shadow.
casting a shadow.

Origin of shadowy

First recorded in 1325–75, shadowy is from the Middle English word shadewy. See shadow, -y1
Related formsshad·ow·i·ness, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for shadowy

Contemporary Examples of shadowy

Historical Examples of shadowy

  • He had got a dangerous game to play, and his plans were vague and shadowy.

    Life in London

    Edwin Hodder

  • He hesitated on the pavement, his eyes searching the shadowy balcony.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • The Princess and her women lost themselves in the shadowy wood.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • From the woods there emerged the shadowy forms of three men.

  • And in the low bushes could be discerned the lurking, furtive, shadowy jackals.

    The Leopard Woman

    Stewart Edward White

British Dictionary definitions for shadowy



full of shadows; dark; shady
resembling a shadow in faintness; vague
illusory or imaginary
mysterious or secretivea shadowy underworld figure
Derived Formsshadowiness, noun
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 shadowy

late 14c., shadewy, "full of shadows," also "transitory, fleeting, unreal;" see shadow (n.) + -y (2). From 1797 as "faintly perceptible." Related: Shadowiness. Old English had sceadwig "shady."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper