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To outline, to sketch, to report or represent in outline, to indicate something faintly or to vaguely foreshadow.


Dated back to the 1580’s, this shady verb comes from the Latin adumbratus, literally meaning to sketch or to shadow in outline. Adumbration, the related noun of action, came about a few years earlier, stemming also from adumbrare, meaning o cast shadow, to overshadow and to represent something merely in outline. All of the above stem from the Proto Indo European noun of umbrage, meaning blind or dark.

Why this word?

This is a wonderful verb mainly because you can use it in so many ways; the active agent for this one ranges from human beings, to historical events, to specific weather and so much more.

With this verb, we are looking at anyone who provided very vague information about something, or at anything that served as the beginning of something that followed. Another great feature to this word is the fact that its meanings have nothing to do one with the other. Personally, I also love the fact that it has to do with shadows- when a person isn’t willing to disclose further information on a subject, he is clearly shadowing, darkening, that subject. But how can the past cast the future with shadows…? Email us if you can come up with an answer!

How to use adumbrate?

When a person is reluctant to provide you with information and only does it to the possible minimum, he is adumbrating that subject.

David: “We will go to the forest, set our tents and then… You’ll see already!”

Dania: “David, I will not go with you until to seize from adumbrating the plan and fully tell me what it is!”

When an event marks the beginning of something that followed it, that event adumbrated the following happening. For example “the 1950’s strife in Bloody Kansas adumbrated the civil war that would follow” or “these last 10 cloudy days adumbrated the storms that followed“.


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Written by Victoria Sheinkin

Victoria Sheinkin is a writer, content editor, translator and chief editor for Speaking three and a half languages, she holds two BAs from the Tel Aviv university- Communication and jounalism, English literature and linguistics.


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