What's an intuitive derivation behind ODO's definition 1 that helps to remember its meaning?

1. adumbrate = [with object] Represent in outline:

Etymonline for adumbration: 1530s, from Latin adumbrationem (nominative adumbratio) "a sketch in shadow, sketch, outline," noun of action from past participle stem of adumbrare "to cast a shadow, overshadow, represent (a thing) in outline," from ad- "to" (see ad-) + umbrare "to cast in shadow," from PIE *andho- "blind, dark" (see umbrage).

My confusion arises from opposition between the clarity of an outline and haziness of a shadow. ODO's definitions 2 and 3 seem fitter, because they directly involve the idea of 'shadow'.

  • So your confusion arises from the fact you have never seen a clearly outlined shadow? They exist, and are extremely common in situations with a single light source, for instance outside on a sunny day. You can see places where the sunlight is blocked by objects, forming a very clear outline of those objects on the ground.
    – oerkelens
    Oct 22, 2014 at 9:38
  • 1
    I see your point: 'Ombrager' in French and 'adombrare' in Italian means to cover, conceal, obscurate. In English the meaning 'to sketch an outline' as that of a shadow (meaning to reveal rather than conceal) has actually gained currency.
    – user66974
    Oct 22, 2014 at 9:38

2 Answers 2


Shadows can be (indeed, usually are) crisp:

they are basically "accurate, but 'colourless / line drawings' of an object"


enter image description here

It's funny that the high-tech analogy we'd use today would probably be something like "give me the mesh version!" (like, in a 3D game or movie, just the "mesh", the actual form, of the character, rather than all the rendering, colouring, etc etc.)

  • "Wireframe it!" Oct 22, 2014 at 10:29
  • Think simple, think solid.
    – Kris
    Oct 22, 2014 at 10:51
  • LOL so true Matt ! :)
    – Fattie
    Oct 22, 2014 at 15:02

Just to get the picture. Forget shadow – think silhouette. That is an outline of the object. So is a shadow, and an eclipse.


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