Definition of shame in English:



mass noun
  • 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’
    • ‘‘We didn't want to be reminded partly because of the shame,’ he said.’
    • ‘Somehow, the shame of my actions was quick to evaporate.’
    • ‘If she did, Carl would have seen the shame in her face.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘But the shame and sorrow for what had happened never cooled.’
    • ‘It's what mainly life is about - humiliation, embarrassment, shame and shyness, all the other things.’
    • ‘I couldn't stand the shame when I reread it a couple days back.’
    • ‘But still, it practically knocked Kate off her feet, and she could feel her face getting hot from her shame and fear.’
    • ‘As long as she keeps running she can avoid the shame, guilt, anger and fear that all compete for dominance in her soul.’
    • ‘I was just filled up with so much shame, so much humiliation.’
    • ‘‘I ran away,’ I quickly interjected, trying to get rid of the shame by exposing it quickly.’
    • ‘George's mouth fell open, and I could instantly see the shame and regret written all over his face.’
    • ‘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,’
    • ‘No fictional account of human humiliation and shame can capture the frightening banality of the people's treatment at these checkpoints.’
    • ‘He could understand the shame and guilt the brunette was feeling right now, and the feeling of complete loss.’
    • ‘I can live with the shame if it means I'm more productive.’
    • ‘It is a country of freedom of speech, more or less, but the ignorance and the shame of the essay writer is unbearable.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He breathed shallowly trying to regain his breath, and let out a scream full of furry, hate, shame, humiliation, and pain.’
    humiliation, mortification, chagrin, ignominy, loss of face, shamefacedness, embarrassment, indignity, abashment, discomfort, discomfiture, discomposure
    guilt, remorse, contrition, compunction
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A loss of respect or esteem; dishonour.
      ‘the incident had brought shame on his family’
      • ‘We follow the inhabitants of one of the smaller districts, desperate to win after the shame of having lost for 25 years running.’
      • ‘Gwen do you want a brother who will most likely bring shame to your family or someone who cares?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘There is not the rejection that you are not my son anymore, but at the same time the shame is there.’
      • ‘What about the shame of housing bright, eager international students in mould infested, decrepit residences?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Tan's mother, meanwhile, watched the grandmother commit suicide, unable to bear the shame.’
      • ‘Perhaps even more important, severe maltreatment could bring shame and dishonour on the neighbourhood.’
      • ‘If they flinch during the act, boys bring shame and dishonor to themselves and their family.’
      • ‘Secondly, being convicted brought not only shame and dishonour on the accused, but on his wife and children as well.’
      • ‘In other words, they want to avenge history, to undo the shame of half a millennium ago with a reassertion of their glory today.’
      • ‘Death in a holy cause could wash away the shame of divorce, infertility, or promiscuity.’
      • ‘They were anxious to bring forward their good reputation, and they stressed that the perpetrator's acts had brought shame and dishonour on them.’
      • ‘I didn't care if the world knew I'd killed him, but the shame would have been too much for Mum.’
      • ‘It does nothing to end the shame of racial discrimination.’
      • ‘So where was the shame in open-ended government dependency?’
      • ‘Throughout Damascene society, broken promises brought shame, dishonor, and various forms of ostracism and censure.’
      • ‘A year went by, and the next summer saw them victorious, France at their feet and the shame of Versailles finally revenged.’
      disgrace, dishonour, discredit, degradation, ignominy, disrepute, ill-repute, infamy, scandal, odium, opprobrium, obloquy, condemnation, contempt
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2count 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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She trusted him with her secrets, even her shames.’
      • ‘I was among them, marked with the shame of extra ‘handwriting’ lessons until I was 14.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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).’
      • ‘When will we profess our shames, diagnose our ills, write out our wrongs?’
      • ‘I live in chagrin and with lovely little shames.’
      discredit to, disgrace to, stain on, blemish on, blot on, blot on the escutcheon of, slur on, reproach to, bad reflection on
      View synonyms
  • 2in 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’
    • ‘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's a shame to reveal the finely crafted intricacies of the plot, but the innovative details of Harry and Lucy's courtship demand sharing.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I - you know, it's such a shame to see all of this because, you know, Paula is such a supportive judge.’
    • ‘It'd be such a shame to squander three seasons of blinding TV…’
    • ‘It would be a shame to bring home a bounty of lovely fashionable gifts and nothing suits her.’
    • ‘It would be a shame to let one of the few real legal and democratic options available to British Columbians today slip by unrealised.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He really is that good here and it was a shame he did not win the Oscar.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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 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.’
    • ‘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'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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It's a shame to dress the whole thing up in nationalism as well!’
    • ‘Either way, it would be a shame to miss this record.’
    • ‘It's a shame as they do contribute so much to the character of a place.’
    • ‘It is a shame to have such a situation in the present state of technological development.’
    pity, misfortune, crying shame, cause for regret, source of regret, sad thing, unfortunate thing
    View synonyms


[with object]
  • 1Make (someone) feel ashamed.

    ‘I tried to shame him into giving some away’
    ‘legal action must be taken and companies named and shamed’
    • ‘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.’’
    • ‘If you discover any misappropriation, please name and shame the culprits.’
    • ‘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 was shamed and embarrassed, yet decided that I should still go to the Wallace Monument.’
    • ‘Bullies try to shame and intimidate their victims and make them feel inadequate.’
    • ‘In this case men are shamed into silence, a form of abuse that few women today would tolerate.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Honesty about our internalised oppression builds a culture without thought policing or shaming people based on our assumptions of what is right.’
    • ‘Young people feel shamed and inadequate when they lack the proper clothing or necessities for school and will stay home to avoid public embarrassment.’
    • ‘He's not looking to shame people, but rather to afford them an opportunity to see things the way he does.’
    • ‘She may be verbally abused, talked about negatively and/or publicly shamed.’
    • ‘We come from very little, and I think that shames my family.’
    • ‘McNamara has no interest in shaming the people he worked with or himself.’
    • ‘It shamed Ruth to think of what he would see: a small, stuffy cottage, made even smaller by her three boys.’
    • ‘Some right wing parties are now part of European governments; others have shamed traditional politicians, and one of them was even assassinated.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘And those who have been hurt by the system can end up shamed into silence.’
    • ‘My kids are too young to have shamed the family by becoming MPs.’
    • ‘"Tell the truth and shame the devil".’
    • ‘I hadn't spent my whole seventeen years perfecting my defenses to my mother's attempts at shaming me for nothing.’
    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
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Bring shame to.
      ‘the entire debacle has shamed Scotland’
      • ‘Basically they shame people into realising it's not the thing to do, dropping paper out-side their doors.’
      • ‘Mr Felton urged the public to pick up rubber bands around their area so the Royal Mail is "shamed" into action.’
      • ‘The bully pulpit is important, and Obama has actually been successful in shaming Wall Street corporate titans at the margins.’
      • ‘Some of his distribution on the break this season, unfussy but nicely weighted, has shamed some celebrated backs.’
      • ‘Kevin said he was revealing his role as an agent in order to shame the British government into getting him out of Northern Ireland.’
      • ‘Everybody please pray that I do not shame my family, my country, and/or my God.’
      • ‘Two more mums are planning to join the legal fight to shame Croydon Council in providing better funding for its schools.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The British Prime Minister Tony Blair says they have shamed their country.’
      • ‘At her wedding, Claudio shames her by saying she is unfaithful.’
      • ‘Shamed by association, Kashua's relatives disowned her.’
      • ‘Its military has shamed America with the torture in Abu Ghraib.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘York was forced to surrender to Parliament and Prince Rupert was shamed.’
      • ‘Council chiefs hope the public will report drivers so they can be called in for questioning and shamed by the posters.’
      • ‘A 16-year-old boy who carried out two knifepoint robberies after smoking cannabis has been named and shamed by a judge.’
      • ‘Bollinger and the rest of the Columbia administration had to be shamed into setting up the committee in the first place.’
      • ‘Judge George Moorhouse said Barrett, of Lawrence Street, York, had let the church down and shamed himself.’
      • ‘He puts to shame any legitimate causes in the domain name battle.’
      • ‘In Jewish tradition, shaming people who misbehave is a last resort, not a first line of action.’
    2. 1.2 Cause (someone) to feel inadequate by outdoing or surpassing them.
      ‘she shames me with her eighty-year-old energy’
      • ‘Yet EU public opinion seems to have shamed even the French.’
      • ‘In fact, they are so cold a lot of cucumbers that they even shame the cold.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The sketches were of a beautiful woman, drawn with such perfection that would shame most artists.’
      outshining, overshadowing, surpassing, excelling, outclassing, outstripping, outdistancing, outdoing, transcending, dwarfing, upstaging, shaming
      View synonyms


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.’
      • ‘But she certainly puts us to shame at dinner times.’
      • ‘He is putting Hitler to shame by his cold-blooded savagery.’
      • ‘And at least Italians are passionate enough to vote: a turnout of around 80 per cent puts us to shame.’
      • ‘Prague has a public transport system that puts London to shame.’
      • ‘When it comes to electoral excitement, the city of champions definitely puts Calgary to shame.’
      • ‘My two-year old godson puts me to shame - he's so much more co-ordinated than me.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘This new democracy puts Australia to shame in showing how little real accountability there is under our system with Government appointments to key positions.’
      outshine, outclass, overshadow, eclipse, surpass, excel, be superior to, outstrip, outdo, put in the shade, upstage, leave behind
      View synonyms
  • shame on you

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

      ‘shame on you for cheating’
      • ‘And lest you doubt their authenticity - shame on you - two of the members have studied Bulgarian folklore in the academic setting.’
      • ‘To the man who canceled his cruise, shame on you - you worked for it, go and enjoy.’
      • ‘It was an amazing show, and to all the people that missed it, shame on you.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I'd say shame on you, but I suppose you would think that quaint, too.’
      • ‘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.’’
      • ‘One, shame on you for missing their Toronto dates, and two, the band sympathizes with you.’
      • ‘But shame on you for saying she is from Brentwood, La.’
      • ‘‘Fool me once, shame on you,’ he starts the old adage, and then panic crosses his face.’


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).