Definition of shame in US English:



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

    ‘she was hot with shame’
    ‘he felt a pang of shame at telling Alice a lie’
    • ‘And so I think those are the emotions, the shame and guilt and the feeling of hypocrisy.’
    • ‘‘We didn't want to be reminded partly because of the shame,’ he said.’
    • ‘I can live with the shame if it means I'm more productive.’
    • ‘George's mouth fell open, and I could instantly see the shame and regret written all over his face.’
    • ‘He breathed shallowly trying to regain his breath, and let out a scream full of furry, hate, shame, humiliation, and pain.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘If she did, Carl would have seen the shame in her 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,’
    • ‘I couldn't stand the shame when I reread it a couple days back.’
    • ‘But the shame and sorrow for what had happened never cooled.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It is a country of freedom of speech, more or less, but the ignorance and the shame of the essay writer is unbearable.’
    • ‘Somehow, the shame of my actions was quick to evaporate.’
    • ‘‘I ran away,’ I quickly interjected, trying to get rid of the shame by exposing it quickly.’
    • ‘I was just filled up with so much shame, so much humiliation.’
    • ‘As long as she keeps running she can avoid the shame, guilt, anger and fear that all compete for dominance in her soul.’
    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; dishonor.
      ‘the incident had brought shame on his family’
      • ‘If they flinch during the act, boys bring shame and dishonor to themselves and their family.’
      • ‘Tan's mother, meanwhile, watched the grandmother commit suicide, unable to bear the shame.’
      • ‘They were anxious to bring forward their good reputation, and they stressed that the perpetrator's acts had brought shame and dishonour on them.’
      • ‘So where was the shame in open-ended government dependency?’
      • ‘In other words, they want to avenge history, to undo the shame of half a millennium ago with a reassertion of their glory today.’
      • ‘Gwen do you want a brother who will most likely bring shame to your family or someone who cares?’
      • ‘It conveniently also offered birth mothers and their babies second chances for normal lives, without the shame of being unwed and illegitimate.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Death in a holy cause could wash away the shame of divorce, infertility, or promiscuity.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Throughout Damascene society, broken promises brought shame, dishonor, and various forms of ostracism and censure.’
      • ‘Secondly, being convicted brought not only shame and dishonour on the accused, but on his wife and children as well.’
      • ‘It does nothing to end the shame of racial discrimination.’
      • ‘Perhaps even more important, severe maltreatment could bring shame and dishonour on the neighbourhood.’
      • ‘What about the shame of housing bright, eager international students in mould infested, decrepit residences?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It brought such shame and dishonor to the entire family.’
      • ‘We follow the inhabitants of one of the smaller districts, desperate to win after the shame of having lost for 25 years running.’
      disgrace, dishonour, discredit, degradation, ignominy, disrepute, ill-repute, infamy, scandal, odium, opprobrium, obloquy, condemnation, contempt
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 Used to reprove someone for something of which they should be ashamed.
      ‘shame on you for dredging up such terrible memories’
      ‘for shame, brother!’
      • ‘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.’’
      • ‘It was an amazing show, and to all the people that missed it, shame on you.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘One, shame on you for missing their Toronto dates, and two, the band sympathizes with you.’
      • ‘And for those who are leery of Canadian films and consider the phrase ‘good Canadian film’ an oxymoron, just shame on you.’
      • ‘But shame on you for saying she is from Brentwood, La.’
      • ‘I'd say shame on you, but I suppose you would think that quaint, too.’
      • ‘I'm not naming any names, but you know who you are, Jamie, and shame on you.’
      • ‘‘Fool me once, shame on you,’ he starts the old adage, and then panic crosses his face.’
    3. 1.3in singular A regrettable or unfortunate situation or action.
      ‘it is a shame that they are not better known’
      • ‘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 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'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 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.’
      • ‘Either way, it would be a shame to miss this record.’
      • ‘He really is that good here and it was a shame he did not win the Oscar.’
      • ‘It is a shame to have such a situation in the present state of technological development.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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 as they do contribute so much to the character of a place.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I - you know, it's such a shame to see all of this because, you know, Paula is such a supportive judge.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It's a shame to dress the whole thing up in nationalism as well!’
      • ‘It would be a shame to bring home a bounty of lovely fashionable gifts and nothing suits her.’
      • ‘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'd be such a shame to squander three seasons of blinding TV…’
      • ‘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.’
      pity, misfortune, crying shame, cause for regret, source of regret, sad thing, unfortunate thing
      View synonyms
    4. 1.4 A person, action, or situation that brings a loss of respect or honor.
      ‘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.’
      • ‘I was among them, marked with the shame of extra ‘handwriting’ lessons until I was 14.’
      • ‘Awarded the Military Cross, he took lives to save others, contributing to the ‘long-famous glories, immemorial shames of war’.’
      • ‘When will we profess our shames, diagnose our ills, write out our wrongs?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Secret shames are divulged delicately, drawing viewers into the lives of the characters.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I live in chagrin and with lovely little shames.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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).’
      • ‘She trusted him with her secrets, even her 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


[with object]
  • 1(of a person, action, or situation) make (someone) feel ashamed.

    ‘I tried to shame him into giving some away’
    • ‘McNamara has no interest in shaming the people he worked with or himself.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We come from very little, and I think that shames my family.’
    • ‘She may be verbally abused, talked about negatively and/or publicly shamed.’
    • ‘Bullies try to shame and intimidate their victims and make them feel inadequate.’
    • ‘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.’’
    • ‘In this case men are shamed into silence, a form of abuse that few women today would tolerate.’
    • ‘It shamed Ruth to think of what he would see: a small, stuffy cottage, made even smaller by her three boys.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Young people feel shamed and inadequate when they lack the proper clothing or necessities for school and will stay home to avoid public embarrassment.’
    • ‘Honesty about our internalised oppression builds a culture without thought policing or shaming people based on our assumptions of what is right.’
    • ‘I hadn't spent my whole seventeen years perfecting my defenses to my mother's attempts at shaming me for nothing.’
    • ‘"Tell the truth and shame the devil".’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘If you discover any misappropriation, please name and shame the culprits.’
    • ‘My kids are too young to have shamed the family by becoming MPs.’
    • ‘And those who have been hurt by the system can end up shamed into silence.’
    • ‘Some right wing parties are now part of European governments; others have shamed traditional politicians, and one of them was even assassinated.’
    • ‘I was shamed and embarrassed, yet decided that I should still go to the Wallace Monument.’
    • ‘He's not looking to shame people, but rather to afford them an opportunity to see things the way he does.’
    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 our community’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Judge George Moorhouse said Barrett, of Lawrence Street, York, had let the church down and shamed himself.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Everybody please pray that I do not shame my family, my country, and/or my God.’
      • ‘Council chiefs hope the public will report drivers so they can be called in for questioning and shamed by the posters.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He puts to shame any legitimate causes in the domain name battle.’
      • ‘Mr Felton urged the public to pick up rubber bands around their area so the Royal Mail is "shamed" into action.’
      • ‘In Jewish tradition, shaming people who misbehave is a last resort, not a first line of action.’
      • ‘Basically they shame people into realising it's not the thing to do, dropping paper out-side their doors.’
      • ‘At her wedding, Claudio shames her by saying she is unfaithful.’
      • ‘Kevin said he was revealing his role as an agent in order to shame the British government into getting him out of Northern Ireland.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Shamed by association, Kashua's relatives disowned her.’
    2. 1.2 Cause (someone) to feel ashamed or inadequate by outdoing or surpassing them.
      ‘she shames me with her eighty-year-old energy’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Yet EU public opinion seems to have shamed even the French.’
      • ‘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


  • put someone to shame

    • Disgrace or embarrass someone by outdoing or surpassing them.

      ‘she puts me to shame, she's so capable’
      • ‘And at least Italians are passionate enough to vote: a turnout of around 80 per cent puts us 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Prague has a public transport system that puts London to shame.’
      • ‘With hands on their hips they thrust their pelvises, putting Elvis to shame.’
      • ‘He shines like sunlight during my darkest times, putting DeBeers to shame.’
      • ‘My two-year old godson puts me to shame - he's so much more co-ordinated than me.’
      • ‘He is putting Hitler to shame by his cold-blooded savagery.’
      • ‘When it comes to electoral excitement, the city of champions definitely puts Calgary to shame.’
      • ‘But she certainly puts us to shame at dinner times.’
      outshine, outclass, overshadow, eclipse, surpass, excel, be superior to, outstrip, outdo, put in the shade, upstage, leave behind
      View synonyms


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).