Definition of shallow in English:



  • 1Of little depth.

    ‘serve the noodles in a shallow bowl’
    ‘being fairly shallow, the water was warm’
    • ‘For the custard, preheat the oven to 300 degrees and line a shallow baking pan with plastic wrap.’
    • ‘These greyish, shallow erosions in the surface of the tongue and cheeks are inflamed and painful, especially when you eat hot, spicy food.’
    • ‘I grow this prehistoric plant in a shallow bowl of water.’
    • ‘They were covered over slightly, like a shallow puddle that manages to reflect the sky while still being able to see to the bottom.’
    • ‘Do you know how shallow the water is here?’
    • ‘He was speeding south over flat plains, shallow rivers, lines of trees and teeny signs of civilization.’
    • ‘Long, shallow cuts lined her cheeks and forehead, and at one or two places, there were deep gouges.’
    • ‘Meantime, the Russian Navy is trying to pull the sub to shallow waters.’
    • ‘That night he made his way out of town and bedded down on the edge of a shallow gully.’
    • ‘There have even been a few documented cases of dolphins supporting drowning swimmers to shallow water.’
    • ‘Each pair of gloves is mounted in a shallow pine box lined with beaded and embroidered wedding fabric and fitted with a lid that has an oval cutout.’
    • ‘Plan on shelf space tall enough for large cereal boxes and drawers shallow enough to allow you to easily find small bags and boxes.’
    • ‘They have created roughly parallel blocks flanked by shallow canals that are actually slightly above harbour level.’
    • ‘Roll the pastry into a large rectangle and line a shallow baking tray.’
    • ‘The five nodded their understanding before giving a shallow bow.’
    • ‘Kate quickly pulled out a shallow chest from beneath her bed and dumped the contents onto the floor.’
    • ‘Evenly broadcast the seeds over an area of the bed or sprinkle them in a shallow furrow.’
    • ‘The casserole is fairly shallow with a large surface area allowing maximum evaporation.’
    • ‘The narrow, deep lakes, so named because they look like the fingers of a hand, were carved by Ice Age glaciers, which deposited shallow topsoil on sloping shale beds above the lakes.’
    • ‘Cool slightly and turn out onto a shallow sided dish.’
    1. 1.1Situated at no great depth.
      ‘the shallow bed of the North Sea’
      • ‘Heavy equipment or materials such as pallets of payers can squash a tree's shallow surface roots.’
      • ‘The shallow depths where fertilizer is placed are dry under drought situations, which limits nutrient uptake.’
    2. 1.2Varying only slightly from a specified or understood line or direction, especially the horizontal.
      ‘a shallow roof’
      • ‘If the spaceship goes in at too shallow a plane, it will bounce off and just fly off into outer space.’
      • ‘Her roof has the same shallow hip but is turned up like a basin with a butterfly profile.’
      • ‘The hall is shaded by a shallow half-hat of a roof which leaves a crescent-shaped interstice between it and the edge of the big carapace.’
      • ‘The den was situated at the top of a shallow hill.’
      • ‘Arranged in a radial pattern, the stone arches are crowned by a shallow domed roof clad in panels of green pre-patinated copper.’
      • ‘The metal balcony is propped from the rubble wall, and is an addition to traditional forms, as is the shallow pyramid of the roof.’
      • ‘For a shallow pitch roof, however, the three tabs is a reasonable choice.’
      • ‘The second was the notion that the project was considered an extension of the city floor, a ramped surface of shallow slopes.’
      • ‘A shallow gabled roof covered with translucent fiberglass shelters the area from rain and drizzle without blocking the light.’
      • ‘Architecturally they incorporate the low roofs, polygonal towers and shallow, semicircular domes of the Byzantine mode.’
      • ‘As the resort's rules demand, walls are sculpted out of white rendered masonry, and there is a shallow thatched roof.’
    3. 1.3(of breathing) taking in little air.
      • ‘His breathing was shallow, and his eyes were tightly closed.’
      • ‘I was pressed up against him and my breathing was shallow.’
      • ‘She heard her tent mates' shallow breathing in their repose.’
      • ‘Soon, she could hear the shallow breathing of people.’
      • ‘His breathing was shallow, even, and mathematically perfect, each breath as large as the last, drawn out for the same amount of time.’
      • ‘Jewel's breathing was shallow as she held back tears.’
      • ‘His eyes were closed and his breathing was shallow.’
      • ‘His breathing was shallow and his face was flushed.’
      • ‘He was trembling and his breathing was shallow and shaky.’
      • ‘The next minute his partner's heart was racing, his breathing was shallow, and he wouldn't respond to anything Jim said, or shouted.’
      • ‘His breathing quickened, his breaths shallow and shaky, as if each one might be his last.’
      • ‘Jasmin's breathing was shallow and her face flushed.’
      • ‘He paused abruptly and David opened his eyes slowly; lowering his arms down, he listened to the man's shallow breathing as he muttered something barely audible.’
      • ‘There was no reply save for the whelpling's shallow breathing.’
      • ‘Her breathing is shallow as she tries to keep from crying.’
      • ‘She pushed forward, rolling like a treadmill, trying to make her breaths shallow to preserve her air supply.’
      • ‘She'd looked terribly pale and her breathing was very shallow.’
      • ‘His shallow breathing seemed to echo throughout the room.’
      • ‘Dave sank down and sat on her front steps, breaths shallow, as though he was trying not to cry.’
  • 2Not exhibiting, requiring, or capable of serious thought.

    ‘a shallow analysis of contemporary society’
    • ‘They were both beautiful, popular people and their pairing had only seemed natural to everyone else despite how shallow I thought Mandy was.’
    • ‘I know my sister isn't gullible or dumb, so this fact only served to prove to me how shallow she is.’
    • ‘This is one reason I described his analysis as shallow.’
    • ‘Was he the only one who could tell how shallow she was?’
    • ‘I was going to go home and fix my face, hide it with makeup and hope that Brendan wasn't shallow enough to break up with me because I was temporarily ugly.’
    • ‘Your friends think I'm just that shallow, because they don't see it and I let them.’
    • ‘But then again, did he truly believe that all women on earth were that shallow?’
    • ‘He also happened to be rather handsome, but I wasn't that shallow.’
    • ‘People may disagree on how deep / shallow it really is, but the scintillating buzz is pretty undeniable.’
    • ‘She was supposed to be the one who wasn't shallow and who wasn't concerned with ‘status’ and such.’
    • ‘Tara resented the implication that she would be that shallow.’
    • ‘She likes to pretend she's that shallow, but she really isn't.’
    • ‘Fifth, the book's discussion of the Asian crisis seems shallow compared to its analysis of Japanese capitalism.’
    • ‘Critics such as La Font de Saint-Yenne and Diderot began to label the work of many of their contemporaries shallow, frivolous, and licentious.’
    • ‘I got to know her pretty well and realized that she wasn't really shallow.’
    • ‘As they open up to each other about their woes, neither seems to recognise how monstrously selfish and shallow they appear.’
    • ‘However theologically shallow it may be, however, there was a definite thought and reasoning behind it.’
    • ‘It's a little shallow that way, but yet one of our guiltiest pleasures.’
    • ‘The errors are patent and they are explicable by what we say is a rather shallow analysis of the admissible value of those utterances in the record of interview.’
    • ‘People are vain and shallow and disregard the love of others to pursue their own whims.’
    superficial, facile, glib, simplistic, oversimplified, schematic, slight, flimsy, insubstantial, lightweight, empty, trivial, trifling
    surface, skin-deep
    frivolous, foolish, silly, unintelligent, unthinking, unscholarly, ignorant
    View synonyms


  • An area of the sea, a lake, or a river where the water is not very deep.

    • ‘These elusive creatures live in sea-grass meadows, mangrove forests, and other secret shallows in the ocean.’
    • ‘As summer had progressed, the weather had become sunnier and the water in the shallows of the bay had warmed up for swimming.’
    • ‘He moved forward cautiously until a man came into view crouched in the shallows of the river.’
    • ‘To see for yourself, inspect the shallows at a pond or pool where the water is clear but also sports some vegetation.’
    • ‘The world of Holodrum is a land filled with season sensitive elements such as spring blooming flowers, snow covered caves as well as summer sapped shallows of water and pits clogged with autumn falling leaves.’
    • ‘We swam to the shore and in every shallow we stopped.’
    • ‘The tall cottonwood trees along the bluffs and in the shallows of the river swayed violently in the wind and several snapped in half.’
    • ‘The trout here also seem to prefer the deep pools during the day and venture out into the shallows only when the sun is off the water.’
    • ‘The rest of the class graduated to the deep end, while I hung around the shallows or clung to the side of the pool.’
    • ‘Taking Danny's hand the nurse led him into the shallows of the water.’
    • ‘She lay with her chin on her forearms, deliciously amused at the sight of Wolf plunging through the shallows, growling like an amphibious tiger.’
    • ‘The components of Friedrich's seascapes are here in a fresh guise: figures gazing at a moonlit sea from rocky shallows at its edge.’
    • ‘She walked along the banks of the lake, watching a water snake slither in the shallows.’
    • ‘Those on the front line of the hauling ropes stood knee deep in the shallows.’
    • ‘In and out of the shingle shallows the fish tried to find escape.’
    • ‘Caelyn walked around in the cool shallows of the water with Justin at her side.’
    • ‘He waded into the shallows and collapsed in knee deep water.’
    • ‘There was a rank smell, not the smell of dead flesh but something older and colder, like something prised out of a shell in the shallows of a tide pool.’
    • ‘Down by the water, kids are playing tag on a long, sandy beach and splashing in the brisk, gin-clear shallows of Redfish Lake.’
    • ‘When she was done crying, she left with the baby to go and let Andrea swim in the shallows of the pond.’


  • (of the sea, a lake, or a river) become less deep over time or in a particular place.

    ‘the boat ground to a halt where the water shallowed’
    • ‘A much larger area at the north end of the lake is approximately 24 m deep, shallowing to the south.’
    • ‘Golden sunlight slanted across dark blue water, ruffled here and there with white lace or streaked brown with mud where it shallowed, but the central channel was wide and deep.’
    • ‘Their pessimism is based on the condition of Jakarta's rivers, which have been shallowed and now mostly function as dumps for people living along the riverbanks.’
    • ‘Since then, the channel shallowed and the docks silted in.’
    • ‘Further in, the tunnel narrowed and shallowed slightly, until at 30m there was a distinct murky halocline.’
    • ‘The airplane's nose dropped through the horizon and speed started increasing to a bit more than 150 knots, then the nose started climbing and the bank angle shallowed out.’


Late Middle English: obscurely related to shoal.