adj. dark·er, dark·est
a. Lacking or having very little light: a dark corner.
b. Lacking brightness: a dark day.
c. Reflecting only a small fraction of incident light; tending toward black: dark clothing.
d. Served without milk or cream: dark coffee.
2. Being or having a complexion that is not light in color.
3. Sullen or threatening: a dark scowl.
a. Characterized by gloom or pessimism; dismal or bleak: a dark day for the economy; dark predictions of what lies in store.
b. Being or characterized by morbid or grimly satiric humor.
a. Unknown or concealed; mysterious: a dark secret; the dark workings of the unconscious.
b. Lacking enlightenment, knowledge, or culture: a dark age in the history of education.
a. Evil in nature or effect; sinister: "churned up dark undercurrents of ethnic and religious hostility" (Peter Maas).
b. Morally corrupt; vicious: dark deeds; a dark past.
7. Having richness or depth: a dark, melancholy vocal tone.
8. Not giving performances; closed: The movie theater is dark on Mondays.
9. Linguistics Pronounced with the back of the tongue raised toward the velum. Used of the sound (l) in words like full.
1. Absence of light.
2. A place having little or no light.
3. Night; nightfall: home before dark.
4. A deep hue or color.
5. darks Pieces of laundry having a dark color.
in the dark
1. In secret: high-level decisions made in the dark.
2. In a state of ignorance; uninformed: kept me in the dark about their plans.
[Middle English derk, from Old English deorc.]
Synonyms: dark, dim, murky, dusky, shady, shadowy
These adjectives indicate the absence of light or clarity. Dark, the most widely applicable, can refer to a lack or near lack of illumination (a dark night), deepness of shade or color (dark brown), somberness (a dark mood), or immorality (a dark past). Dim means having or producing little light (dim shadows; a dim light bulb) and further suggests lack of sharpness or clarity: "the terrible dim faces known in dreams" (Carson McCullers). "tales now dim and half forgotten" (Jane Stevenson).
Murky refers to a thick or clouded darkness: "Dolphins use sonar beams to navigate the murky depths of the ocean" (Tim Hilchey).
Like dim, it is also used of what is indistinct or uncertain: "Modern warfare is murky, and with no clear frontlines, the distinction between combat and support can become meaningless" (Kristin Henderson).
Dusky suggests a subdued half-light: "The dusky night rides down the sky, / And ushers in the morn" (Henry Fielding).
It can also refer to deepness or darkness of color: "A dusky blush rose to her cheek" (Edith Wharton).
Shady refers literally to what is sheltered from light, especially sunlight (a shady grove of pines) or figuratively to what is of questionable honesty (shady business deals). Shadowy also implies obstructed light (an ill-lit, shadowy street) but may refer to what is indistinct or little known: "[He] retreated from the limelight to the shadowy fringe of music history" (Charles Sherman).
It can also refer to something that seems to lack substance and is mysterious or sinister: a shadowy figure in a black cape.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.