What It Means
- Adumbrate is a formal verb with several meanings that all have to do with figurative shadows. It can mean “to foreshadow vaguely,” as in “a childhood interest in ants that adumbrated a career in biology”; it can mean “to suggest or outline partially,” as in “a few sentences that adumbrate the plan”; and it can mean “to overshadow or obscure,” as in “a cheerfulness not adumbrated by difficult circumstances.”
- // The movie’s most impressive feat was to pull off a plot twist perfectly adumbrated by one rather forgettable scene.
- // The first chapter of the graphic novel deftly adumbrates her earliest memories.
- // The joyous occasion was adumbrated by knowledge of what the next day was to bring.
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ADUMBRATE In Context
“The lines adumbrate the fact that freedom was not attained on a platter of gold, but as a result of the collaborative efforts of the freedom fighters, in a fierce battle with the oppressors.” — Mark Ogbinaka and Aghogho Akpome, Gender & Behaviour, 1 Apr. 2022
Did You Know?
Don’t throw shade our way if you’ve never crossed paths with adumbrate—the word’s shadow rarely falls across the pages of casual texts. It comes from the Latin word umbra, meaning “shadow,” and is usually used in academic and political writing to mean “to foreshadow” (as in “protests that adumbrated a revolution”) or “to suggest or partially outline” (as in “a philosophy adumbrated in her early writings”). Adumbrate is a definite candidate for those oft-published lists of words you should know, and its relations range from the quotidian (umbrella) to the somewhat formal (umbrage) to the downright obscure (umbra). But it’s a word worth knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt.