a. A dark area or shape made by an object blocking rays of light.
b. The darkness or diminished light caused by the blocking of a light source: The back yard is in shadow all day long.
c. A darker area in a picture or photograph.
d. shadows The darkness following sunset.
a. often shadows A darkened area of skin under the eye.
b. An incipient growth of beard that makes the skin look darker.
3. A feeling or cause of gloom or unhappiness: The argument cast a shadow on their friendship.
a. A nearby or adjoining region; vicinity: grew up in the shadow of the ballpark.
b. A dominating presence or influence: spent years working in the shadow of the lab director.
a. An imitation or inferior version: "The defenders of the Japanese home islands were already a shadow of the fighting forces American soldiers had encountered elsewhere" (James Carroll).
b. A phantom; a ghost.
c. An unsubstantial object of pursuit: spent the last part of his career chasing shadows.
a. One, such as a detective or spy, that follows or trails another.
b. A constant companion.
c. Sports A player who guards an opponent closely.
7. A faint indication; a foreshadowing: a shadow of things to come.
8. An insignificant portion or amount; a trace: beyond a shadow of a doubt.
9. Shelter; protection: under the shadow of their corporate sponsor.
v. shad·owed, shad·ow·ing, shad·ows
1. To cast a shadow on; darken or shade: The leaves of the trees shadowed the ferns below.
2. To make gloomy or troubled, especially over time: He was shadowed by self-doubt.
3. To represent vaguely, mysteriously, or prophetically; foreshadow.
4. To darken in a painting or drawing; shade in.
a. To follow, especially in secret; trail.
b. Sports To guard (an opponent) closely throughout the playing area.
To become downcast or gloomy: Her face shadowed with sorrow.
Not having official status: a shadow government of exiled leaders; a shadow cabinet.
[Middle English, from Old English sceaduwe, oblique case of sceadu, shade, shadow.]
Word History: Shade and shadow are not only related in meaning; historically they are the same word. In Old English, the ancestor of Modern English spoken a thousand years ago, nouns were inflected; that is, they had different forms depending on how they were used in a sentence. One of the inflected forms of the Old English noun sceadu, translatable as either "shade" or "shadow," was sceaduwe; this form was used when the word was preceded by a preposition (as in in sceaduwe, "in the shade, in shadow"). As time went on these two forms of the same word were interpreted as two separate words. The same thing happened to other Old English words, too: our mead and meadow come from two different case-forms of mǣd, the Old English word for "meadow."
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.