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See also: Shallow



From Middle English schalowe (not deep, shallow); apparently related to Middle English schalde, schold, scheld, schealde (shallow), from Old English sċeald (shallow), from Proto-Germanic *skal-, from Proto-Indo-European *(s)kelh₁- (to parch, dry out).[1] Related to Low German Scholl (shallow water). See also shoal.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈʃaləʊ/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈʃæl.oʊ/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -æləʊ
  • Hyphenation: shal‧low


shallow (comparative shallower, superlative shallowest)

  1. Having little depth; significantly less deep than wide.
    This crater is relatively shallow.
    Saute the onions in a shallow pan.
  2. Extending not far downward.
    The water is shallow here.
  3. Concerned mainly with superficial matters.
    It was a glamorous but shallow lifestyle.
  4. Lacking interest or substance.
    The acting is good, but the characters are shallow.
  5. Not intellectually deep; not penetrating deeply; simple; not wise or knowing.
    shallow learning
  6. (obsolete) Not deep in tone.
    • 1631, Francis [Bacon], “(please specify |century=I to X)”, in Sylua Syluarum: Or A Naturall Historie. In Ten Centuries. [], 3rd edition, London: [] William Rawley; [p]rinted by J[ohn] H[aviland] for William Lee [], →OCLC:
      the sound perfecter and not so shallow and jarring
  7. (tennis) Not far forward, close to the net.
    • 2012 June 28, Jamie Jackson, “Wimbledon 2012: Lukas Rosol shocked by miracle win over Rafael Nadal”, in the Guardian[1]:
      Rosol spurned the chance to finish off a shallow second serve by spooning into the net, and a wild forehand took the set to 5-4, with the native of Prerov required to hold his serve for victory.
  8. (angles) Not steep; close to horizontal.
    a shallow climb; a shallow descent; a shallow bank angle
    • 1922 July 24, Aviation Magazine:
      The planes then flew side by side with motors wide open in a very shallow climb....
    • 1968 December 20, CBS Evening News:
      If they [the Apollo astronauts] come in too steeply, they will be crushed in the Earth’s atmosphere. If they come in too shallow, they will skip out and go into Earth orbit and not be able to return.


Derived terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


shallow (plural shallows)

  1. A shallow portion of an otherwise deep body of water.
    The ship ran aground in an unexpected shallow.
    • 1631, Francis [Bacon], “(please specify |century=I to X)”, in Sylua Syluarum: Or A Naturall Historie. In Ten Centuries. [], 3rd edition, London: [] William Rawley; [p]rinted by J[ohn] H[aviland] for William Lee [], →OCLC:
      A swift stream is not heard in the channel, but [] upon shallows of gravel.
    • 1697, Virgil, “(please specify the book number)”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC:
      dashed on the shallows of the moving sand
    • 1895, H. G. Wells, The Time Machine:
      It happened that, as I was watching some of the little people bathing in a shallow, one of them was seized with cramp and began drifting downstream.
  2. A fish, the rudd.
  3. (historical) A costermonger's barrow.
    • 1871, Belgravia, volume 14, page 213:
      You might have gone there quite as easily, and enjoyed yourself much more, had your mode of conveyance been the railway, or a hansom, or even a costermonger's shallow.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Usually used in the plural form.


See also[edit]


shallow (third-person singular simple present shallows, present participle shallowing, simple past and past participle shallowed)

  1. (transitive, intransitive) To make or become less deep.
    • 2009 February 6, Andrew Z. Krug et al., “Signature of the End-Cretaceous Mass Extinction in the Modern Biota”, in Science[2], volume 323, number 5915, →DOI, pages 767-771:
      The shallowing of Cenozoic age-frequency curves from tropics to poles thus appears to reflect the decreasing probability for genera to reach and remain established in progressively higher latitudes ( 9 ).


  1. ^ Pokorny, Julius (1959) Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch [Indo-European Etymological Dictionary] (in German), volume 3, Bern, München: Francke Verlag, page 927