Example usage:

With what fairer and nobler emblem could any man desire to shadow forth his character?


In time the bells ceased, and the bakers were shut up; and yet there was a genial shadowing forth...

(from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens)

I cannot find a satisfactory definition anywhere.

4 Answers 4


It is roughly synonymous with "symbolize", as OED indicates in this definition of shadow:

To represent by a shadow or imperfect image; to indicate obscurely or in slight outline; to symbolize, typify, prefigure. Now chiefly with adv. forth, out.

OED has citations for this definition up until 1894, so this sense of the word was used in Dickens' time.


It is a literary old expression: To shadow:

to represent faintly, prophetically, etc. (often followed by forth).


From The Excellency of the Liturgy: In Four Discourses 1804

We have shewn that the transactions at Mount Sinai, were intended to shadow forth the nature of the two dispensations, (that of the law and that of the gospel,) in a contrasted view.

  • 2
    So--it's been replaced by "foreshadow."
    – Xanne
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 4:10

Foreshadow seems more constrained to literary works whereas shadow forth, though antiquated appears to be more versatile within many actions. It holds the nuance of predicting future events by utilizing and showcasing physical examples of objects and/or actions that will happen in the future, pave the way of the future or set a new standard for the future. A simple example sentence: "I'm going to shadow forth with this program I've written, and everything in current,daily computer use will change."

  • 1
    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Mar 19, 2023 at 6:53

There is also an example in The Fall of the House of Usher:

One of the phantasmagoric conceptions of my friend, partaking not so rigidly of the spirit of abstraction, may be shadowed forth, although feebly, in words.

In this case, it seems as if symbolize or represent could be adequate synonyms.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.