There was the headline “Bears defense shines in 24-17 loss to Panthers" in today's New York Times Sport section.

Cambridge English Dictionary defines “shine” as;

  1. to send out or reflect light.
  2. to point a light in a particular direction.
  3. to make something bright by rubbing it.

Oxford English Dictionary defines it as;

  1. give out a bright light.
  2. make (an object made of leather, metal, or wood) bright by rubbing it.
  3. be very talented or perform very well.

Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary defines it as;

  1. produce or reflect or point the light of lamp in a particular direction.
  2. polish stg.
  3. to be very good at stg.

Though it seems to me that only the definition 3. of both OED and OALD is relevant to the ‘shine’ in the quoted headline, I cannot make out why Bears defense is described as “shines (performed very well)” in a lost game, not winning game.

What does “shines” here mean? Is it a prevailing usage of ‘shine’ as a verb? Is the word ‘shine’ used very often in this way?

3 Answers 3


It means sense 3 of the OED, to perform very well: the Bears lost the match, even though their defence "performed very well". There are more aspects to a match than just your defence. Apparently the Panthers did better in other respects.

  • I still don't see how the defense can be said to "shine" if the other side scores 24 points on it in American football. That's four touchdowns. Commented Aug 10, 2013 at 19:12
  • Malvolio. That's the point of my question - why is Bears defense described as “shines (performed very well)” in a lost game like a hero, not in a winning game? Commented Aug 10, 2013 at 20:27
  • 1
    I didn't see the game, but it is possible for the other side's defense to score touchdowns (or set them up such that they're almost impossible to defend against) and there's nothing your defense can do about it because your offense is on the field at the time. Commented Aug 10, 2013 at 20:49
  • @Malvolio - J.R. posted the details of the game in a comment on my answer; now that I know, it seems fair to say that the Bears' defense wasn't why they lost this game, and may well have been the stars of the game (even in a losing effort).
    – MT_Head
    Commented Aug 10, 2013 at 21:26
  • 2
    I find it conceivable that questions regarding why the defense can be said to have shined despite of the high loss might be answered by reading the article whose headline is under discussion here.
    – Carsten S
    Commented Aug 10, 2013 at 23:20

It should probably appear as a fourth definition:

v. To be the single bright spot in an otherwise dismal situation.

It's used in this sense fairly often, but only in journalism and usually in the sports section.

  • MT_Head. Can’t I use ‘shine’ in other occasions than sport events and journalism, e.g. “She shined as a presenter in yesterday’s competitive pitch” in lunchtime conversation? Commented Aug 10, 2013 at 8:23
  • 3
    Collins Def. 5 says, "to be conspicuously competent," so, yes, you might say something like, "She shone as a presenter." (Past tense can be shined or shone, and, in my opinion, the word can sometimes sound a little awkward in the past tense. "She's a good saleswoman, but she really shines during corporate presentations" seems fine, though.)
    – J.R.
    Commented Aug 10, 2013 at 10:10
  • I agree - 'shined' is technically correct, but sounds horrible. And, @YoichiOishi, yes - 'to shine' is perfectly acceptable in such a context; I was merely answering about its use here, which (in my opinion) is slightly different. The Bears' defense allowed 24 points, so it's more than a little ridiculous to call them "conspicuously competent" in this game; however, they were the best thing in a losing effort. As I said in my answer, this usage is fairly common, especially in the sports section.
    – MT_Head
    Commented Aug 10, 2013 at 18:05
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    @MT_Head: It's not really fair (or accurate) to say "the Bears' defense allowed 24 points": one Panther TD was scored on an interception return, and another was scored on a 4-yd drive after a turnover deep in Bears territory. The Bears D only allowed 1 lengthy TD drive, plus a 50-yd FG. More importantly, the Bears D had four takeaways during the game, which is really why they shined in the loss. The fact that the Bears' defense was known for being "opportunistic" in 2012 is also signficant in this headline.
    – J.R.
    Commented Aug 10, 2013 at 19:08
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    @J.R. I always thought that the weak inflection shined was at most reserved for transitive uses and that the strong inflection shone was used for normal intransitive uses. “He shined her shoes for free. The sun shone through the clouds. Her skin positively shone with health.” But many would also use shone for “He shone his flashlight on the distant sign.” The OED suggests that the shined inflection, used for to put a shine on something, was originally a U.S. usage.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 10, 2013 at 19:28

In this case, "shines" means "stands out", "its high quality is on display".

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