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From Middle English schalowe ‎(not deep, shallow); apparently related to Old English sceald ‎(shallow). See also shoal.



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
    • Francis Bacon
      The king was neither so shallow, nor so ill advertised, as not to perceive the intention of the French king.
  6. (obsolete) Not deep in tone.
    • Francis Bacon
      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.



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shallow ‎(plural shallows)

  1. A shallow portion of an otherwise deep body of water.
    The ship ran aground in an unexpected shallow.
    • Francis Bacon
      A swift stream is not heard in the channel, but upon shallows of gravel.
    • Dryden
      dashed on the shallows of the moving sand
  2. A fish, the rudd.

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. 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:10.1126/science.1164905, 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 ).