Shallow Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

Shallow is a word with multiple meanings that are used commonly. Here is what shallow means, and how to use it within the right contexts!

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The word shallow is one of those words with a couple of different meanings in the English language. While the symbolic meaning is almost always the same, the actual execution of the word itself can often mean other things in different contexts. 

If you’ve heard the word shallow before in a context that you haven’t understood, then this article can help you to understand the word in a new way! This is what shallow means, what contexts you can use it in, and some great examples to help you understand it in new ways. 

What Does Shallow Mean? 

According to the dictionary of the English language, the word shallow (shal-low) is an adjective that describes something with little depth, spatial extension, or horizontal variance. When used in the context of physical objects and locations, it is used to describe something with a small physical depth, like a swimming pool where there is only a small distance from the highest point of the water to the bottom. Continuing from that example, a pool that procedurally gets deeper has a deep end of the pool and a shallow end. 

When used in the context of a person, shallow is an adjective that describes a smaller depth of intellect, lack of genuine emotions, or a negligible amount of relational warmth. People with a shallow lifestyle generally aren’t profoundly engaged with anything or anyone and produce similar content everywhere they go. These people try to find public ways to express themselves but typically find it hard to express themselves in more deep and personal ways. 

Shallow is also used metaphorically and symbolically in a lot of other contexts. For example, some people might refer to an education system that isn’t impactful as shallow learning. If you are in a place that doesn’t engage emotionally or relationally, you could say you’re in a shallow area. If someone can’t sleep at night, they may say that they had a night of shallow fretful sleep. 

Where Did the Word Shallow Originate? 

Shallow is based on old versions of the English language. The word’s first use is seen in the Old English scald, which came from shoal. As time went on, the term became the Middle English schalowe, which later turned into the shallow that we know today. 

The word shoal is an excellent explanation of shallow’s meaning. Shoals are places with shallow water at a coastline of land and are typically the most shallow part of a body of water. 

Most lakes and oceans have great spatial extension downward. However, the closer a boat got to shore, the closer it would be to the bottom. These shallow cuts of water became referred to as shoals over time, which led to the word shallow becoming popular. 

Some synonyms and related words include

  • Empty
  • Falt
  • Hollow
  • Trivial
  • Shelf
  • Shoal
  • Slight
  • Surface
  • Trifling
  • Cursory
  • Depthless
  • Inconsiderate
  • Sand bar
  • Superficial
  • Unsound

Example Sentences Using the Word Shallow

The best way to learn how to use a word is by looking at examples used in a proper context. Below, we have several example sentences that will hopefully help you understand the term in new ways and enable you to incorporate shallow into your vocabulary! 

Space and Spatial Dimensions

  • When constructing this part of a playing area in a pool, it’s usually wise to make sure it isn’t too shallow. 
  • Brett Jackson hurt himself in the pool because he ignored the “shallow water” sign. 
  • The shallow beachhead was great for swimmers and recreation but incredibly dangerous for most boats. 
  • The shallow rivers were great places for boyfriends to take their dates on kayaking trips. 
  • He ate from a shallow dish and ended up spilling beans everywhere. 
  • Even though the outer surface of the pool looked massive, it didn’t go deep at all. 
  • I tried to crash into her shallow closet, but I just couldn’t find space to get comfortable. 
  • The shallow portion of an otherwise deep body of water can be dangerous to dive near. 
  • The shallow area of Oscar’s pool was where everyone was pretending to be the singer Lady Gaga. 
  • I wanted to use the shallow pan for cooking onions, but the edges were too low. 
  • I stood on the front edge of the shallow crater and could see it was only a couple of feet deep. 

Relationships and People

  • The single woman exhibited her shallow roots almost every time someone talked to her. 
  • Even though her soundtrack for the movie made it to the Grammys, the shallow lyrics meant it wasn’t the best song. 
  • So much conversation in the modern world feels so shallow and lifeless. 
  • I don’t care if they’re the best pop duo in the city — their group performance seemed so incredibly shallow. 
  • I left the third party of the day because the shallow creeps had followed me there. 
  • I could hardly stand all the shallow women’s voices at the recording studio, so I went to Denny’s. 

Metaphors and Symbolic Meanings

  • The YouTube actors were a shallow representation of collaborators on my visual media project. 
  • Rude is a very shallow adjective to describe how they treated you last January. 
  • We could tell they were still alive from the shallow respirations they were taking. 
  • Even though the hypnotist claimed to be a master, they could only put me in a shallow trance. 
  • I read a poem on a website about a shallow void inside of all of us. 
  • The copyright lawyers were only able to get shallow market penetration. 


If you are ever confused about what a word means, check out our blog here at The Word Counter! We’re constantly adding new articles that’ll help you understand the English Language and communication in a new way. It’s not always easy to incorporate new words into your vocabulary. Thankfully, with our help, you can be communicating like the best of them in no time!


  1. Shallow definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary 
  2. SHALLOW | Cambridge English Dictionary
  3. Shallow – Definition, Meaning & Synonyms |