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Shadows on the beach


From Middle English schadowe, schadewe, schadwe (also schade > shade), from Old English sceaduwe, sceadwe, oblique form of sceadu (shadow, shade; darkness; protection), from Proto-Germanic *skadwaz (shade, shadow), from Proto-Indo-European *skot- (darkness). Cognate with Scots scaddow, schaddow (shadow), Saterland Frisian Skaad (shade, shadow), Dutch schaduw (shadow), German Schatten (shadow, shade), Norwegian skodde (fog, mist), Irish scáth (shadow), Ancient Greek σκότος (skótos, darkness, gloom).



The shadow of the photographer, taken in Singapore

shadow (countable and uncountable, plural shadows)

  1. A dark image projected onto a surface where light (or other radiation) is blocked by the shade of an object.
    • 1898, Winston Churchill, chapter 1, in The Celebrity:
      The stories did not seem to me to touch life. [] They left me with the impression of a well-delivered stereopticon lecture, with characters about as life-like as the shadows on the screen, and whisking on and off, at the mercy of the operator.
    My shadow lengthened as the sun began to set.
    The X-ray showed a shadow on his lung.
  2. Relative darkness, especially as caused by the interruption of light; gloom, obscurity.
    I immediately jumped into shadow as I saw them approach.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Denham
      Night's sable shadows from the ocean rise.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Spenser
      In secret shadow from the sunny ray, / On a sweet bed of lilies softly laid.
  3. (obsolete) A reflected image, as in a mirror or in water.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Shakespeare to this entry?)
  4. That which looms as though a shadow.
    • 1992, Rudolf M. Schuster, The Hepaticae and Anthocerotae of North America: East of the Hundredth Meridian, volume V, page vii
      Hepaticology, outside the temperate parts of the Northern Hemisphere, still lies deep in the shadow cast by that ultimate "closet taxonomist," Franz Stephani—a ghost whose shadow falls over us all.
    I don't have a shadow of doubt in my mind that my plan will succeed. The shadow of fear of my being outed always affects how I live my life. I lived in her shadow my whole life.
  5. A small degree; a shade.
    He did not give even a shadow of respect to the professor.
    • 2015 December 5, Alan Smith, “Leicester City back on top as Riyad Mahrez hat-trick downs Swansea City”, in The Guardian (London)[1]:
      Only Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion have enjoyed less possession than Leicester’s 44.2% per game, and they have the worst pass-completion rate in the league, a shadow over 71%.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Bible, James i. 17
      no variableness, neither shadow of turning
  6. An imperfect and faint representation.
    He came back from war the shadow of a man.
    the neopagan ritual was only a pale shadow of the ones the Greeks held thousands of years ago
    • (Can we date this quote?) Bible, Hebrews x. 1
      the law having a shadow of good things to come
    • (Can we date this quote?) John Milton
      [types] and shadows of that destined seed
  7. (Britain, law enforcement) A trainee, assigned to work with an experienced officer.
  8. One who secretly or furtively follows another.
    The constable was promoted to working as a shadow for the Royals.
  9. A type of lettering form of word processors that makes a cubic effect.
  10. An influence, especially a pervasive or a negative one.
    • 1844, Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Present Age: Politics”, in Robert E. Spiller, Wallace E. Williams, editor, The early lectures of Ralph Waldo Emerson, volume 3, published 1972:
      Men see the institution and worship it. It is only the lengthened shadow of one man. [] The Reformation is the shadow of Luther: Quakerism of Fox: Methodism of Wesley: Abolition of Clarkson.
  11. A spirit; a ghost; a shade.
  12. (obsolete, Latinism) An uninvited guest accompanying one who was invited.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Nares to this entry?)
  13. (psychology) In Jungian psychology, an unconscious aspect of the personality.

Usage notesEdit

  • A person (or object) is said to "cast", "have", or "throw" a shadow if that shadow is caused by the person (either literally, by eclipsing a light source, or figuratively). The shadow may then be described as the shadow "cast" or "thrown" by the person, or as the shadow "of" the person, or simply as the person's shadow.

Derived termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


shadow (third-person singular simple present shadows, present participle shadowing, simple past and past participle shadowed)

  1. To block light or radio transmission.
    Looks like that cloud's going to shadow us.
  2. (espionage) To secretly or discreetly track or follow another, to keep under surveillance.
  3. To accompany a professional during the working day, so as to learn about an occupation one intends to take up.
  4. (programming) To make an identifier, usually a variable, inaccessible by declaring another of the same name within the scope of the first.
  5. (computing) To apply the shadowing process to (the contents of ROM).

Derived termsEdit



shadow (comparative more shadow, superlative most shadow)

  1. Unofficial, informal, unauthorized, but acting as though it were.
    The human resources department has a shadow information technology group without headquarters knowledge.
  2. Having power or influence, but not widely known or recognized.
    The director has been giving shadow leadership to the other group's project to ensure its success.
    The illuminati shadow group has been pulling strings from behind the scenes.
  3. (politics) Acting in a leadership role before being formally recognized.
    The shadow cabinet cannot agree on the terms of the agreement due immediately after they are sworn in.
    The insurgents’ shadow government is being crippled by the federal military strikes.
  4. (Australia, politics) Part of, or related to, the opposition in government.

Derived termsEdit