Origin of shallow

1350–1400; Middle English schalowe (adj.); akin to Old English sceald shallow (see shoal1)
Related formsshal·low·ly, adverbshal·low·ness, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for shallow

Contemporary Examples of shallow

Historical Examples of shallow

  • These he drove firmly into the soft bottom of a shallow lake.

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

  • He was in a shallow basin which luckily pointed in the right direction for him.

  • The shallow water of the lagoon ran into gold-tipped ripples.

    The Trail Book

    Mary Austin

  • In every shallow ravine were groves of tree ferns forty feet tall.

    The Leopard Woman

    Stewart Edward White

  • Below this opening was a shallow basin into which the rainwater fell.

British Dictionary definitions for shallow



having little depth
lacking intellectual or mental depth or subtlety; superficial


(often plural) a shallow place in a body of water; shoal


to make or become shallow
Derived Formsshallowly, adverbshallowness, noun

Word Origin for shallow

C15: related to Old English sceald shallow; see shoal 1
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 shallow

c.1400, schalowe "not deep," probably from or related to Old English sceald (see shoal (n.)). Of breathing, attested from 1875; of thought or feeling, "superficial," first recorded 1580s. The noun, usually shallows, is first recorded 1570s, from the adjective.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper