Word of the Week: Adumbrate

Word: adumbrate

Pronunciation: A-dəm-brayt / ə-DƏM-brayt

Part of Speech: verb


  1. report or represent in outline
  2. indicate faintly
  3. foreshadow or symbolize
  4. overshadow

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

Is it ironic to learn a word with four different meanings without seeing it used in any of them? Well, that’s how I came across today’s Word of the Week, another one picked up from the Elevate – Brain Training app. It sounds like a word I could have gotten familiar with sooner if I read more poetry, but as it happens, I’ve only ever seen it in the Spelling game. Still, with four definitions, I’d definitely take on this word as a writing challenge: to find as many ways as possible to “adumbrate” something in my stories!

To “adumbrate” something is to either represent or report it in outline, indicate it faintly, foreshadow or symbolize it, or overshadow it. The word arose in the late 16th century and comes from the Latin verb adumbrare, meaning “to shade”. This verb stems from the verb umbrare “to cast a shadow”, which in turn derives from the noun umbra “shadow”.

Though I only just learned the word “adumbrate”, I admit I already find it intriguing, not just for its multiple definitions but for how they’re all connected by the root word “shadow”: creating or perceiving a shadow of a larger picture, foreshadowing future events, or overshadowing one idea with another. While Oxford Dictionaries emphasize representation in outline as its primary definition (especially in American English), it should work equally well in any of the others. The real challenge is finding a way to work all four meanings into one written work! So if you ever find yourself needing to summarize, evidence, signify, or obscure anything in your stories, “adumbrate” is an excellent word to add to your list! Good luck!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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