Definition of shame in English:



  • 1A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour.

    ‘she was hot with shame’
    ‘he felt a pang of shame at telling Alice a lie’
    • ‘I can live with the shame if it means I'm more productive.’
    • ‘He breathed shallowly trying to regain his breath, and let out a scream full of furry, hate, shame, humiliation, and pain.’
    • ‘I couldn't stand the shame when I reread it a couple days back.’
    • ‘If she did, Carl would have seen the shame in her face.’
    • ‘But the shame and sorrow for what had happened never cooled.’
    • ‘George's mouth fell open, and I could instantly see the shame and regret written all over his face.’
    • ‘But still, it practically knocked Kate off her feet, and she could feel her face getting hot from her shame and fear.’
    • ‘It's what mainly life is about - humiliation, embarrassment, shame and shyness, all the other things.’
    • ‘‘We didn't want to be reminded partly because of the shame,’ he said.’
    • ‘He could understand the shame and guilt the brunette was feeling right now, and the feeling of complete loss.’
    • ‘‘I ran away,’ I quickly interjected, trying to get rid of the shame by exposing it quickly.’
    • ‘Hell is a place where you are reminded of all of your sins over and over again, and perhaps the shame in just remembering them for eternity will be the first thing to drive you mad.’
    • ‘As long as she keeps running she can avoid the shame, guilt, anger and fear that all compete for dominance in her soul.’
    • ‘I realized this was the case when her next words came out with the shame of a child who was caught in the cookie jar,’
    • ‘I was just filled up with so much shame, so much humiliation.’
    • ‘And so I think those are the emotions, the shame and guilt and the feeling of hypocrisy.’
    • ‘It should not be overlooked that this could be due to the feelings of fear, shame, embarrassment or anger that the victims may still feel during or even after the event.’
    • ‘It is a country of freedom of speech, more or less, but the ignorance and the shame of the essay writer is unbearable.’
    • ‘No fictional account of human humiliation and shame can capture the frightening banality of the people's treatment at these checkpoints.’
    • ‘Somehow, the shame of my actions was quick to evaporate.’
    humiliation, mortification, chagrin, ignominy, loss of face, shamefacedness, embarrassment, indignity, abashment, discomfort, discomfiture, discomposure
    guilt, remorse, contrition, compunction
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    1. 1.1A loss of respect or esteem; dishonour.
      ‘the incident had brought shame on his family’
      • ‘They were anxious to bring forward their good reputation, and they stressed that the perpetrator's acts had brought shame and dishonour on them.’
      • ‘There is not the rejection that you are not my son anymore, but at the same time the shame is there.’
      • ‘She would be ridiculed, not to mention the fact that she would bring great shame upon her family, for even being suspected of such things.’
      • ‘A year went by, and the next summer saw them victorious, France at their feet and the shame of Versailles finally revenged.’
      • ‘I didn't care if the world knew I'd killed him, but the shame would have been too much for Mum.’
      • ‘Tan's mother, meanwhile, watched the grandmother commit suicide, unable to bear the shame.’
      • ‘Gwen do you want a brother who will most likely bring shame to your family or someone who cares?’
      • ‘Secondly, being convicted brought not only shame and dishonour on the accused, but on his wife and children as well.’
      • ‘We follow the inhabitants of one of the smaller districts, desperate to win after the shame of having lost for 25 years running.’
      • ‘It conveniently also offered birth mothers and their babies second chances for normal lives, without the shame of being unwed and illegitimate.’
      • ‘It brought such shame and dishonor to the entire family.’
      • ‘More importantly, it removes the shame of being human, because instead of Jesus the man embodying all that is good, Jesus the symbol represents the divine in each of us.’
      • ‘It does nothing to end the shame of racial discrimination.’
      • ‘If they flinch during the act, boys bring shame and dishonor to themselves and their family.’
      • ‘Perhaps even more important, severe maltreatment could bring shame and dishonour on the neighbourhood.’
      • ‘In other words, they want to avenge history, to undo the shame of half a millennium ago with a reassertion of their glory today.’
      • ‘Throughout Damascene society, broken promises brought shame, dishonor, and various forms of ostracism and censure.’
      • ‘What about the shame of housing bright, eager international students in mould infested, decrepit residences?’
      • ‘Death in a holy cause could wash away the shame of divorce, infertility, or promiscuity.’
      • ‘So where was the shame in open-ended government dependency?’
      disgrace, dishonour, discredit, degradation, ignominy, disrepute, ill-repute, infamy, scandal, odium, opprobrium, obloquy, condemnation, contempt
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    2. 1.2[count noun]A person, action, or situation that brings a loss of respect or honour.
      ‘ignorance of Latin would be a disgrace and a shame to any public man’
      • ‘It's very much a book about a man remembering being a child, and it's very much about a man remembering the shames of being a child.’
      • ‘As historians have recently pointed out, the process of keeping family secrets and shames was one that implicated several generations and led to enormous stress for the children involved.’
      • ‘Eventually, the ideology de-evolved into an almost completely racist bent to all football bedlam (paving the way for one of punk's personal shames, the skinheads).’
      • ‘He remembered the way Buck had worn his first sweater, standing up tall and looking down at his chest, helpless to the giggling and the shame of wearing such an ugly outfit.’
      • ‘I was among them, marked with the shame of extra ‘handwriting’ lessons until I was 14.’
      • ‘He describes a scene where the screams of the learner merged with his own self-loathing, a joint pain, and up he went, utterly without a centre, having spurted it all out in secret shames.’
      • ‘The whole time, he carefully avoids looking at me as I struggle with the shame of crying in school over what looks like nothing more than a stupid locker.’
      • ‘When will we profess our shames, diagnose our ills, write out our wrongs?’
      • ‘The colourful graffiti on many of the walls in Switzerland may be a shame to the locals but I would have loved to record my impressions of this ideal destination in such artistic abandon.’
      • ‘I live in chagrin and with lovely little shames.’
      • ‘She trusted him with her secrets, even her shames.’
      • ‘Awarded the Military Cross, he took lives to save others, contributing to the ‘long-famous glories, immemorial shames of war’.’
      • ‘Secret shames are divulged delicately, drawing viewers into the lives of the characters.’
      discredit to, disgrace to, stain on, blemish on, blot on, blot on the escutcheon of, slur on, reproach to, bad reflection on
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  • 2[in singular] A regrettable or unfortunate situation or action.

    ‘what a shame Ellie won't be here’
    ‘it is a shame that they are not better known’
    • ‘It's a shame to throw them away or leave them in the back of a cupboard when they could go towards improving the lives of the many disadvantaged children in the UK.’
    • ‘The principals are now engaged in a plot that it would be a shame to reveal, since much of the joy in watching this production comes from not knowing the ending.’
    • ‘It's a shame to reveal the finely crafted intricacies of the plot, but the innovative details of Harry and Lucy's courtship demand sharing.’
    • ‘The rainbow maki (known locally as a stampeder roll) is not only a great example, it's almost a shame to eat it because it's so lovely to look at.’
    • ‘He really is that good here and it was a shame he did not win the Oscar.’
    • ‘The two men share such synergy - especially in the more experimental storytelling style used in the last chapter - that it's almost a shame to consider them separately.’
    • ‘It is a shame to have such a situation in the present state of technological development.’
    • ‘It's a shame as they do contribute so much to the character of a place.’
    • ‘It would be a shame to bring home a bounty of lovely fashionable gifts and nothing suits her.’
    • ‘Either way, it would be a shame to miss this record.’
    • ‘As with every truly well written story, it seems a shame to unravel all of the threads and to foreshadow all of the genuinely surprising twists in the plot.’
    • ‘It's a shame to dress the whole thing up in nationalism as well!’
    • ‘I - you know, it's such a shame to see all of this because, you know, Paula is such a supportive judge.’
    • ‘I took jazz-singing lessons and the teacher told me that we could never take the country out of my voice, and that it would be a shame to do so.’
    • ‘It'd be such a shame to squander three seasons of blinding TV…’
    • ‘There's plenty of funny stuff there, and it's kind of a shame to see this particular conceit, which has a lot of humorous potential, discarded so quickly.’
    • ‘It's a shame to see it all play out in a movie that's mostly about making blandly obvious arguments about how bad and dishonourable racism is.’
    • ‘It would be a shame to let one of the few real legal and democratic options available to British Columbians today slip by unrealised.’
    • ‘It's just a shame to see the same ground being walked - there's got to be other topics that well-produced anime can address, but I'm still waiting.’
    • ‘It is a shame to miss the compendiousness and convincingness of the picture, of the crumbling - crummy - amalgam of dark and dry, of what is there and what is lost.’
    pity, misfortune, crying shame, cause for regret, source of regret, sad thing, unfortunate thing
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  • 1 Make (someone) feel ashamed.

    ‘I tried to shame him into giving some away’
    ‘legal action must be taken and companies named and shamed’
    • ‘Some suspected he didn't make me promise, for many knew that he didn't like pledges, for if you found yourself unable to complete them, you were shamed for life, and that was no life.’
    • ‘I hadn't spent my whole seventeen years perfecting my defenses to my mother's attempts at shaming me for nothing.’
    • ‘I was shamed and embarrassed, yet decided that I should still go to the Wallace Monument.’
    • ‘In this case men are shamed into silence, a form of abuse that few women today would tolerate.’
    • ‘I wouldn't have to describe to you how terrible these experiences were, because you know that whenever we are publicly shamed we feel we are exposed to the world and that we are in danger of becoming a nothing, a non-person.’
    • ‘I've been pretty open about it to the point of shaming my father by saying, ‘Yeah, I had to take anti-depressants for almost a year.’’
    • ‘"Tell the truth and shame the devil".’
    • ‘We come from very little, and I think that shames my family.’
    • ‘And those who have been hurt by the system can end up shamed into silence.’
    • ‘Honesty about our internalised oppression builds a culture without thought policing or shaming people based on our assumptions of what is right.’
    • ‘McNamara has no interest in shaming the people he worked with or himself.’
    • ‘Bullies try to shame and intimidate their victims and make them feel inadequate.’
    • ‘If you discover any misappropriation, please name and shame the culprits.’
    • ‘He's not looking to shame people, but rather to afford them an opportunity to see things the way he does.’
    • ‘It shamed Ruth to think of what he would see: a small, stuffy cottage, made even smaller by her three boys.’
    • ‘My kids are too young to have shamed the family by becoming MPs.’
    • ‘Some right wing parties are now part of European governments; others have shamed traditional politicians, and one of them was even assassinated.’
    • ‘Young people feel shamed and inadequate when they lack the proper clothing or necessities for school and will stay home to avoid public embarrassment.’
    • ‘She may be verbally abused, talked about negatively and/or publicly shamed.’
    • ‘Putting bumper stickers on people's cars, they say, is an updated way of inducing shame for social good, in this case by shaming SUV drivers about their purchase.’
    humiliate, mortify, make someone feel ashamed, chagrin, embarrass, abash, chasten, humble, put someone in their place, take down a peg or two, cut down to size, show up
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    1. 1.1Bring shame to.
      ‘the entire debacle has shamed Scotland’
      • ‘The bully pulpit is important, and Obama has actually been successful in shaming Wall Street corporate titans at the margins.’
      • ‘The British Prime Minister Tony Blair says they have shamed their country.’
      • ‘Judge George Moorhouse said Barrett, of Lawrence Street, York, had let the church down and shamed himself.’
      • ‘Mr Felton urged the public to pick up rubber bands around their area so the Royal Mail is "shamed" into action.’
      • ‘Shamed by association, Kashua's relatives disowned her.’
      • ‘Local complaints rumbled on until the city was shamed into taking action by Towton, a tiny village near Tadcaster, which was said to have outshone York in 1997.’
      • ‘Kevin said he was revealing his role as an agent in order to shame the British government into getting him out of Northern Ireland.’
      • ‘Two more mums are planning to join the legal fight to shame Croydon Council in providing better funding for its schools.’
      • ‘In Jewish tradition, shaming people who misbehave is a last resort, not a first line of action.’
      • ‘Bollinger and the rest of the Columbia administration had to be shamed into setting up the committee in the first place.’
      • ‘Supermarkets should be named and shamed for allowing more than 3,000 shopping trolleys to be dumped in rivers and canals every year, British Waterways have said.’
      • ‘Council chiefs hope the public will report drivers so they can be called in for questioning and shamed by the posters.’
      • ‘At her wedding, Claudio shames her by saying she is unfaithful.’
      • ‘York was forced to surrender to Parliament and Prince Rupert was shamed.’
      • ‘Its military has shamed America with the torture in Abu Ghraib.’
      • ‘A 16-year-old boy who carried out two knifepoint robberies after smoking cannabis has been named and shamed by a judge.’
      • ‘Everybody please pray that I do not shame my family, my country, and/or my God.’
      • ‘He puts to shame any legitimate causes in the domain name battle.’
      • ‘Some of his distribution on the break this season, unfussy but nicely weighted, has shamed some celebrated backs.’
      • ‘Basically they shame people into realising it's not the thing to do, dropping paper out-side their doors.’
    2. 1.2Cause (someone) to feel inadequate by outdoing or surpassing them.
      ‘she shames me with her eighty-year-old energy’
      • ‘Her skill at passing herself off as someone else would have shamed even James Bond.’
      • ‘If Mother were alive today, she'd put TV makeover shows to shame, for she excelled in transformation.’
      • ‘In fact, they are so cold a lot of cucumbers that they even shame the cold.’
      • ‘The sketches were of a beautiful woman, drawn with such perfection that would shame most artists.’
      • ‘Yet EU public opinion seems to have shamed even the French.’
      outshining, overshadowing, surpassing, excelling, outclassing, outstripping, outdistancing, outdoing, transcending, dwarfing, upstaging, shaming
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South African
  • Used to express sentimental pleasure, especially at something small and endearing.

    ‘look at the foals—shame, aren't they sweet?’


  • put someone to shame

    • Make someone feel inadequate by greatly outdoing or surpassing them.

      ‘she puts me to shame, she's so capable’
      • ‘He shines like sunlight during my darkest times, putting DeBeers to shame.’
      • ‘With hands on their hips they thrust their pelvises, putting Elvis to shame.’
      • ‘Prague has a public transport system that puts London to shame.’
      • ‘This new democracy puts Australia to shame in showing how little real accountability there is under our system with Government appointments to key positions.’
      • ‘When it comes to electoral excitement, the city of champions definitely puts Calgary to shame.’
      • ‘I tend to think of myself as a fairly well-read and knowledgeable fellow, but Lex puts me to shame, with his vast library and conversational skills.’
      • ‘He is putting Hitler to shame by his cold-blooded savagery.’
      • ‘My two-year old godson puts me to shame - he's so much more co-ordinated than me.’
      • ‘But she certainly puts us to shame at dinner times.’
      • ‘And at least Italians are passionate enough to vote: a turnout of around 80 per cent puts us to shame.’
      outshine, outclass, overshadow, eclipse, surpass, excel, be superior to, outstrip, outdo, put in the shade, upstage, leave behind
      show up, humble
      run rings around, be head and shoulders above, leave standing, knock into a cocked hat
      knock spots off
      outrival, outvie
      put to the blush
      View synonyms
  • shame on you

    • Used to reprove someone for something of which they should be ashamed.

      ‘shame on you for hitting a woman’
      • ‘And lest you doubt their authenticity - shame on you - two of the members have studied Bulgarian folklore in the academic setting.’
      • ‘‘Fool me once, shame on you,’ he starts the old adage, and then panic crosses his face.’
      • ‘It was an amazing show, and to all the people that missed it, shame on you.’
      • ‘A member of the International Socialists interrupted him, calling out, ‘shame on you for calling us on thinking, shame on you, this is supposed to be a university.’’
      • ‘But shame on you for saying she is from Brentwood, La.’
      • ‘One, shame on you for missing their Toronto dates, and two, the band sympathizes with you.’
      • ‘I'd say shame on you, but I suppose you would think that quaint, too.’
      • ‘To the man who canceled his cruise, shame on you - you worked for it, go and enjoy.’
      • ‘And for those who are leery of Canadian films and consider the phrase ‘good Canadian film’ an oxymoron, just shame on you.’
      • ‘I'm not naming any names, but you know who you are, Jamie, and shame on you.’


Old English sc(e)amu (noun), sc(e)amian ‘feel shame’, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch schamen (verb) and German Scham (noun), schämen (verb).