AskDefine | Define shadow

Dictionary Definition



1 shade within clear boundaries
2 an unilluminated area; "he moved off into the darkness" [syn: darkness, dark]
3 something existing in perception only; "a ghostly apparition at midnight" [syn: apparition, phantom, phantasm, phantasma]
4 a premonition of something adverse; "a shadow over his happiness"
5 an indication that something has been present; "there wasn't a trace of evidence for the claim"; "a tincture of condescension" [syn: trace, vestige, tincture]
6 refuge from danger or observation; "he felt secure in his father's shadow"
7 a dominating and pervasive presence; "he received little recognition working in the shadow of his father"
8 a spy employed to follow someone and report their movements [syn: tail, shadower]
9 an inseparable companion; "the poor child was his mother's shadow"


1 follow, usually without the person's knowledge; "The police are shadowing her"
2 cast a shadow over [syn: shade, shade off]
3 make appear small by comparison; "This year's debt dwarves that of last year" [syn: overshadow, dwarf]

User Contributed Dictionary



Old English sceaduwe, inflected form of sceadu ( > English shade).



  1. A dark image projected onto a surface where light is blocked by the shade of an object.
    My shadow lengthened as the sun began to set.
  2. Relative darkness, especially as caused by the interruption of light; gloom, obscurity.
    I immediately jumped in shadow as I saw them approach.
  3. That which looms as though a shadow.
    I don't have a shadow of doubt in my mind that my plan will succeed.
    The shadow of fear of me being outed always affects how I live my life.
    I lived in her shadow my whole life.
  4. Merely a hint of substance.
    He came back from war the shadow of a man.
    He did not give even a shadow of respect to the professor.
  5. One who secretly or furtively follows another.
    The constable was promoted to working as a shadow for the Royals.
  6. A type of lettering form of word processors that makes a cubic effect.


dark image projected onto a surface
relative darkness
one who secretly or furtively follows another
a type of lettering form
  • Japanese: 影付き
Translations to be checked


  1. To block light or radio transmission.
    Looks like that cloud's going to shadow us.
  2. To secretly track or follow another, to keep under surveillance.
  3. To make an identifier, usually a variable, inaccessible by declaring another of the same name within the scope of the first.


to block light or radio transmission
to secretly track or follow another

Extensive Definition

A shadow is a region of darkness where light is blocked by an object. It occupies all of the space behind an opaque object with light in front of it. The cross section of a shadow is a two-dimensional silhouette, or reverse projection of the object blocking the light.


The closer to 90 degrees the angle between an elongated object and the direction of the light it blocks, the bigger its shadow. The smaller the angle between the direction of the light and the surface on which the shadow occurs, the longer the shadow is. If the object is close to the light source, the shadow is large. If the surface is curved there are further distortions.


For a non-point source of light, the shadow is divided into the umbra and penumbra. The wider the light source, the more blurred the shadow.
If there are multiple light sources there are multiple shadows, with overlapping parts darker, or a combination of colors. For a person or object touching the surface, like a person standing on the ground, or a pole in the ground, these converge at the point of touch.

Colored shadows

If white light is produced by separate colored light sources, the shadows are coloured.
Illuminate a room with a red light, and the shadows are exclusively gray, or dark. Illuminate the shadows with a white light, and the shadows are green. Where both lights are blocked, or in other words where the shadows intersect, the shadows are gray. Away from the intersection, where the red light is blocked the shadows are green, and where the white light is blocked the shadows are red. In other words, light colors shadow or brighten them, according to the complementary color of the light blocked to cast the shadow. In the case of white and red lights, the complement of white is red; with white and green lights, the complement of white is green.
In the absence of multiple light sources, colored lights illuminate spaces where other lights are not blocked. In the above example, the red shadow cast by blocking white light is not a shadow with the white light off, but it is illuminated in red.
In the absence of white light, colored lights blocked by an opaque surface cast shadows in the colors complementary to the lights blocked. For green light, red shadows, and vice-versa; blue, orange; yellow, purple; intermediate light, intermediate shadows.

Shadow propagation speed

The further the distance from the object blocking the light to the surface of projection, the larger the silhouette (they are considered proportional). Also, if the object is moving, the shadow cast by the object will project an image with dimensions (length) expanding proportionally faster than the object's own length of movement. The increase of size and movement is also true if the distance between the object of interference and the light source are closer. This, however, does not mean the shadow may move faster than light, even when projected at vast distances, such as light years. The loss of light, which projects the shadow, will move towards the surface of projection at light speed.
The projected shadow may appear to have moved faster than the speed of light, but there is no actual physical manifestation moving upon the surface. The misconception is that the edge of a shadow "moves" along a wall, when in actuality the increase of a shadow's length is part of a new projection, which will propagate at the speed of light from the object of interference. Since there is no actual communication between points in a shadow (except for reflection or interference of light, at the speed of light), a shadow that projects over a surface of large distances (light years) cannot give information between those distances with the shadow's edge.

Other notes

A shadow cast by the Earth on the Moon is a lunar eclipse. Conversely, a shadow cast by the Moon on the Earth is a solar eclipse.
On satellite imagery and aerial photographs, taken vertically, tall buildings can be recognized as such by their long shadows (if the photographs are not taken in the tropics around noon), while these also show more of the shape of these buildings.
A shadow shows, apart from distortion, the same image as the silhouette when looking at the object from the sun-side, hence the mirror image of the silhouette seen from the other side (see picture).
Shadow as a term is often used for any occlusion, not just those with respect to light. For example, a rain shadow is a dry area, which, with respect to the prevailing wind direction, is beyond a mountain range; the range is "blocking" water from crossing the area. An acoustic shadow can be created by terrain as well that will leave spots that can't easily hear sounds from a distance.


The Shadow side in Jungian psychology (Carl Jung), is a part of the unconscious mind consisting of repressed weaknesses, shortcomings, and instincts.

Mythological connotations

An unattended shadow or shade was thought by some cultures to be similar to that of a ghost, a flicker of a life unable to end for some reason.
It is also believed as an alternative construct that shadows are in fact a representation of God's presence around an object; like a halo. Early eastern beliefs also play to this theory. For example, Vishnu (a prominent Hindu god) would appear to help followers by assisting with tasks by lending some of his extra arms to assist the burden of the person.


In heraldry, when a charge is supposedly shown in shadow (the appearance is of the charge merely being outlined in a neutral tint rather than being of one or more tinctures different from the field on which it is placed), it is called umbrated. Supposedly only a limited number of specific charges can be so depicted.
shadow in Bulgarian: Сянка
shadow in Catalan: Ombra
shadow in Czech: Stín
shadow in German: Schatten
shadow in Modern Greek (1453-): Σκιά
shadow in Spanish: Sombra
shadow in Esperanto: Ombro
shadow in French: Ombre
shadow in Korean: 그림자
shadow in Hindi: प्रतिबिम्ब
shadow in Indonesian: Bayang-bayang
shadow in Hebrew: צל
shadow in Georgian: ჩრდილი
shadow in Latvian: Ēna
shadow in Lithuanian: Šešėlis
shadow in Malayalam: നിഴല്‍
shadow in Dutch: Schaduw
shadow in Japanese: 影
shadow in Norwegian Nynorsk: Skugge
shadow in Polish: Cień
shadow in Portuguese: Sombra
shadow in Russian: Тени (фотография)
shadow in Sicilian: Ùmmira
shadow in Simple English: Shadow
shadow in Slovak: Tieň
shadow in Serbian: Сенка
shadow in Finnish: Varjo
shadow in Telugu: నీడ
shadow in Turkish: Gölge
shadow in Ukrainian: Тінь

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Masan, adherent, adumbrate, adumbration, afterglow, afterimage, air, airy nothing, alter ego, amount, anima, anima humana, apparition, appearance, appendage, apply paint, arrangement, astral, astral spirit, atman, atmosphere, attendant, augury, auspicate, auspice, awning, ba, balance, banshee, barebones, beach umbrella, bean pole, beanstalk, becloud, bedarken, bedaub, bedim, bedizen, bedog, befog, begild, begloom, bemist, besmear, besmirch, betokening, betokenment, black, black out, blacken, blackwash, blight, blind, block the light, blot, blot out, blotch, body forth, bosom buddy, breath, breath of life, broomstick, brown, brush on paint, brushwork, bubble, buddhi, buff, butt, butt end, calcimine, caliber, candle ends, cast, cast a shadow, cavaliere servente, chaff, charcoal, chase, chum, clabber up, clothes pole, cloud, cloud over, cloud up, coat, color, come after, come behind, companion, compass, complexion, complicate, composition, comrade, concealment, control, copy, cork, corpse, couch, courtier, cover, covering, creep, crony, curse, curtain, cut, dab, dangler, dark shade, darken, darken over, darkness, dash, daub, dead ringer, debris, deep-dye, defense, degree, demonstrate, denigrate, departed spirit, dependent, design, detritus, dim, dim out, dimness, dinge, dip, disciple, disembodied spirit, distemper, divine breath, dog, double, double-dye, draftsmanship, drape, drapery, duplicate, duppy, dusk, dybbuk, dye, ebonize, echo, eclipse, effigy, ego, eidolon, emblazon, embody, enamel, encloud, encompass with shadow, end, engild, enmist, ether, exact likeness, exemplify, extent, eye, face, fag end, fan, fantasy, fast-dye, fellow, figure, filings, flunky, fog, follow, follow a clue, follow up, follower, following, foreshadow, foreshadowing, foreshow, foreshowing, foretoken, foretokening, form, fossil, fresco, garble, ghost, gild, glaze, gleam, gloom, gloss, go after, go behind, grade, grain, grateful dead, grouping, gruel, guard, guide, gumshoe, hanger-on, hant, haunt, have a hunch, have an intimation, haze, heart, heel, heeler, height, henchman, hint, holdover, homme de cour, hound, hue, hunt down, husks, icon, idea, idol, idolum, illuminate, illusion, illustrate, image, imbue, immateriality, impersonate, incarnate, incorporeal, incorporeal being, incorporeity, indicant, indication, ingrain, ink, inner man, interval, intimation, japan, jiva, jivatma, jumble, khu, lacquer, lanky, larva, lath, lay on color, lay wait, leap, leavings, lee, leftovers, lemures, level, lick, lie in wait, light shield, likeness, line, living image, living picture, look, lurk, make unintelligible, man, manes, mark, match, mate, materialization, measure, melanize, memento, mere shadow, mind, miniature, mirror, mirroring, mist, model, move behind, murk, mystify, nephesh, nightwalk, nigrify, nose, nose out, notch, nuance, nubilate, obfuscate, obnubilate, obscure, obscurity, obumbrate, occult, occultate, odds and ends, offscourings, omen, oni, orts, outline, overcast, overcloud, overshadow, oversmoke, paint, painterliness, paper, parasite, parasol, parget, parings, partisan, pas, peg, penumbra, period, personate, personify, perspective, phantasm, phantasma, phantasmagoria, phantom, photograph, picture, pigment, pitch, plane, plateau, pneuma, point, poltergeist, portent, portrait, predict, prefiguration, prefigure, preindication, premonitory shiver, premonitory sign, premonitory symptom, presage, presence, preservation, presignifying, pretypify, prime, prognostic, prognostication, project, promise, proportion, protection, protective custody, prowl, psyche, public, pursue, pursuer, pursuivant, purusha, pussyfoot, rags, rail, rake, range, ratio, rattlebones, reach, realize, reflect, reflection, reflex, refuge, refuse, relic, relics, remainder, remains, remnant, remove, resemblance, residue, residuum, rest, retainer, revenant, roach, round, ruach, rubbing, rubbish, ruins, rump, run down, run to earth, rung, safekeeping, safety, satellite, sawdust, scale, scintilla, scope, scourings, scramble, scraps, screen, sectary, semblance, servant, shade, shaded, shader, shadiness, shading, shadow forth, shadows numberless, shadowy, shady, shape, shaving, shavings, shellac, shelter, shield, shrouded spirit, sidekick, sign, silhouette, similitude, simulacrum, sip, skeleton, skiagram, skiagraph, skulk, slat, slim, slink, slip, slop on paint, smack, smattering, smear, smell, smell out, smirch, smog, smoke, smudge, smut, smutch, sneak, sniff out, somber, soot, soothsay, soul, soup, soupcon, space, spark, specter, spectral ghost, spindlelegs, spindleshanks, spirit, spiritual being, spiritus, spit and image, spitting image, splinter, spook, sprinkling, sprite, stack of bones, stain, stair, stalk, standard, steal, step, stilt, stint, stipple, stooge, straw, streak, string along, stubble, stump, successor, suggestion, sunblind, sunshade, sup, supporter, survival, suspicion, sweepings, tag, tag after, tag along, tagtail, tail, tailgate, taste, technique, the self, theophany, thin air, thought, tinct, tincture, tinge, tint, tiptoe, token, tokening, tone, touch, trace, trace down, tracing, track, track down, trail, trail after, trainbearer, tread, tread close upon, treatment, twiggy, twin, type, umbra, umbrage, umbrageousness, umbrella, undercoat, unsubstantiality, values, vapor, varnish, veil, vein, very image, very picture, vestige, vision, votary, wafer, waking dream, walking dead man, wandering soul, ward heeler, wash, waste, watchful eye, whitewash, wildest dream, wraith, zombie
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