The Meaning of Shallow: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of shallow? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word shallow, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word shallow mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language as well as Collins English Dictionary and American Heritage, the word shallow is an adjective meaning having little depth, or having little spatial extension inward or backward. This can be used literally to talk about physical depth in water or shallow breathing, but can also  be used figuratively to describe a person or thing that lacks in depth of intellect, thought, knowledge or feeling, or that which penetrates only the easily perceived. The pronunciation of shallow is . The suffixes er and est can be added to the end of the word to create the superlatives shallower and shallowest, and ly can be added to make shallowly (adv.). Different suffixed can be added to create other tenses beside the present tense, like the present participle. Shallow is also a popular song from the film A Star is Born sung by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. It has been sung by many women’s voices throughout the years, and was nominated for an Oscar.

Many different languages also contain words that mean shallow (adj.). You may notice that some of these words look and sound similar to the word shallow and to each other. These are called cognates, which are words and phrases in different languages that look and sound similar and also mean similar things. These are often formed when two words have the same root or language of origin. This list of translations of shallow is provided by Word Sense.

  •  Mandarin: 淺‎, 浅‎ (qiǎn)
  •  Scottish Gaelic: eu-domhainn‎
  •  Armenian: ծանծաղ‎
  •  Catalan: pla‎, poc profund‎, superficial‎
  •  Georgian: მარჩხობი‎, წყალმარჩხი‎
  •  Latvian: sekls‎
  •  German: seicht‎, flach‎
  •  Ukrainian: мілкий‎ (milkýj), неглибокий‎ (nehlybókyj)
  •  Macedonian: плиток‎ (plítok)
  •  Arabic: ضَحِل‎
  •  Danish: flad‎, lav‎
  •  Interlingua: pauco profunde‎
  •  French: peu profond‎
  •  Polish: płytki‎
  •  Swedish: ytlig‎ (common)
  •  Italian: superficiale‎
  •  Esperanto: malprofunda‎
  •  Basque: azaleko‎
  •  Hungarian: lapos‎, sekély‎
  •  Occitan: superficial‎
  •  Russian: ме́лкий‎, неглубо́кий‎
  •  Lithuanian: seklus‎
  •  Japanese: 浅い‎ (あさい, asai)
  •  Nynorsk: flat‎, lav‎, grunn‎
  •  Latgalian: seklys‎
  •  Romanian: plat‎, puțin adânc‎
  •  Slovak: plytký‎
  •  Persian: کم عمق‎ (kam-omq), تنک‎ (tonok), تخت‎ (taxt)
  •  Bokmål: flat‎, lav‎, grunn‎
  •  Bashkir: һай‎
  •  Finnish: matala‎, laakea‎
  •  Greek: ρηχός‎
  •  Czech: mělký‎
  •  Portuguese: raso‎, superficial‎
  •  Spanish: poco profundo‎ (masc.), superficial‎

What is the origin of the word shallow?

According to Etymonline, the word shallow has been used since 14c Middle English as schalowe to mean not deep. This is related to the Old English sceald which gives us the related word shoal. This has been used with regard to breathing since the 1870s, and of thought or feelings since the 1580s. The noun, usually written as shallows, has been used since the 1570s.

How can the word shallow be used in a sentence?

The word shallow can be used in many different sentences in the English language. Using words in a sentence or making flashcards and quizzes for yourself are all great ways to memorize a word’s definition. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today! Below are many examples of shallow.

The children played in the shallow end of the pool for safety. The swimming pool had part of a playing area and the stretch of shallow water was near the seating area, unlike the deep end, so parents could keep an eye on the children.

Jackson hit the baseball into the shallow left field, and it wasn’t enough to let him return back to home plate before he was outed.

The woman filled the shallow pan with onions, and made penetration with shallow cuts on the outer surface of the potatoes. She rubbed the chicken with a spice mixture and placed the shallow dish into the oven to cook.

The man took shallow breaths, only taking in a small amount of air with each inhalation. He was in shock after his attempted robbery, and had night after night of shallow fretful sleep after the incident.

The woman grew tired of much conversation. She felt most people she interacted with were shallow people who only cared about appearances.

Maria shoved her clothes into the shallow closet. She couldn’t wait to start renovations and receive a great spatial extension to her wardrobe.

The friends decided to wade in the shallow beachhead. Their friend ventured into the deep body of water, but quickly scurried back to the shallow portion when he felt something slimy touch his leg.

What are synonyms and antonyms of the word shallow?

There are many different words that a person can use in place of the word shallow. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same definition as another word or phrase. Learning synonyms is a great way to expand your vocabulary and avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms is provided by Thesaurus.

  •  flimsy
  •  shoal
  •  puerile
  •  uncritical
  •  flat
  •  trifling
  •  lightweight
  •  cursory
  •  piddling
  •  meaningless
  •  frivolous
  •  inane
  •  sand bar
  •  farcical
  •  empty
  •  surface
  •  vain
  •  paltry
  •  wishy-washy
  •  trivial
  •  slight
  •  skin-deep
  •  petty
  •  flighty
  •  idle
  •  superficial
  •  empty-headed
  •  frothy
  •  shelf
  •  foolish
  •  inconsiderable
  •  featherbrained
  •  unsound
  •  simple
  •  half-baked
  •  sketchy
  •  hollow
  •  unthinking
  •  depthless

There are also numerous different words that mean the opposite of the word shallow. These opposite words are called antonyms. Learning antonyms is another great way to expand your English language vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word shallow is also provided by Thesaurus.

  •  buried
  •  subterranean
  •  immersed
  •  low
  •  unfathomable
  •  abyssal
  •  distant
  •  inmost
  •  wide
  •  underground
  •  broad
  •  fathomless
  •  downreaching
  •  bottomless
  •  beneath
  •  deep
  •  submerged
  •  yawning
  •  subaqueous
  •  abysmal
  •  sunk
  •  deep-seated
  •  below
  •  profound
  •  submarine
  •  far
  •  rooted

Overall, the word shallow means not deep. This word can be used literally and figuratively.


  1. shallow: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. SHALLOW Synonyms: 70 Synonyms & Antonyms for SHALLOW | Thesaurus 
  3. DEEP Synonyms: 214 Synonyms & Antonyms for DEEP | Thesaurus  
  4. shallow | Origin and meaning of shallow | Online Etymology Dictionary  
  5. Shallow | Definition of Shallow | Merriam-Webster