Definition of silhouette in US English:

silhouette

noun

  • 1The dark shape and outline of someone or something visible against a lighter background, especially in dim light.

    • ‘They dive down deep and look for prey that appear as dark silhouettes against the brighter underside of the ice.’
    • ‘Walls were painted in earth tones, with silhouettes in darker tones of masked dancers in performance.’
    • ‘A silhouette shadowed the light for a moment, and then a torch bracket in the wall was lit.’
    • ‘Flurries of snow drift down gently outside our windows, through which we can just make out the dark silhouettes of the surrounding peaks.’
    • ‘It is in the painting that Sheeler arrived at the flawless balance of shapes, the alternating rhythms of light and dark forms and of silhouettes and delicately modulated surfaces.’
    • ‘As she looked over towards Erik, Maria could only make out his silhouette in the dim light.’
    • ‘The fledgling flung himself in, clothes and all, and Arun wished he had brought bait and line as he saw the dark silhouettes of trout duck away into the shadows.’
    • ‘At first sight, it was dark and only faint silhouettes could be seen with the faint light radiating from the doorway.’
    • ‘He anxiously glanced back over his shoulder and saw that the dark silhouettes of countless stumbling figures were pouring into the car park after him.’
    • ‘Dark silhouettes lurched crazily in the flickering light, while the pub doors creaked and slammed threatrically in the wind.’
    • ‘The path wound its way to a summit; the route being marked by a chain of cairns, on the highest of which a trident had been placed so that its silhouette was visible from far below.’
    • ‘There was a pale light inside and a shadow stood before the light, the silhouette of a child.’
    • ‘Tim was just starting to cross the grounds, the dark silhouette of the school outlined in the moonlight, when a gasping voice whispered in the shadows.’
    • ‘The dark silhouettes of palm trees stood out against a deepening magenta sky.’
    • ‘I saw some footage of the dark silhouette of New York city: just the outline in the night.’
    • ‘The dark silhouette of an imposing dome, still covered with scaffolding, can be seen through a snowstorm.’
    • ‘The design of their silhouettes against the light background with full windows is reminiscent of a Japanese screen.’
    • ‘‘You always manage to look beautiful,’ he complimented her, admiring her silhouette in the dim light.’
    • ‘Tall, leafless trees outlined the pathway, their silhouettes shockingly dark against the snow.’
    • ‘As I was laying there on the cool grass, looking up at the starlit and crescent moon sky and dark silhouettes of roses, I felt more at peace than I had in awhile.’
    outline, contour, contours, profile, delineation, form, shape, figure, shadow, features, lines, curves, configuration
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A representation of someone or something showing the shape and outline only, typically colored in solid black.
      • ‘The new trick - the key to the work - is that Periton now underlays each black silhouette with an exact replica made in a dayglo tone of pink, orange, green or red.’
      • ‘On the screen was a white silhouette against a black backdrop.’
      • ‘These works are positives, so the amphibians are sharp, black silhouettes.’
      • ‘In one painting enigmatically titled Hoovering, there appears to be a black silhouette of a rabbit.’
      • ‘Like Guston, Komarin deploys a set of singular motifs and cartoonish silhouettes that appear frequently in his works.’
      • ‘I opened the closet, and picked out a Hawaiian shirt at random, this one being red with black silhouettes of dragons on it.’
      • ‘Participants indicate the silhouette that most closely resembles their perceived body shape, and the silhouette which best represents their ideal figure.’
      • ‘Sugiura often uses the photogram as a paper negative to print a positive, in which the subject becomes a black silhouette.’
      • ‘Photographers made use of the pandanus to lend striking silhouettes to black and white photographs of Reef twilight.’
      • ‘On four large glass sheets, Urquhart has painted in black the silhouettes of a tailor's dummy, a piano, a desk and a garden.’
      • ‘One lady said she decorated cards with black paper silhouettes on CDs.’
      • ‘The focus is certainly on subtlety, with easy simple shapes, and feminine silhouettes forming most of the collection.’
      • ‘The method is found in many periods of art from the silhouettes of hands in palaeolithic cave paintings, in Egyptian art, and on Greek vases.’
      • ‘One subtle touch is a handmade mobile - two wire coat hangers dangling with familiar slam-dunking silhouettes cut from black construction paper.’
      • ‘She's done so through her now trademark silhouettes, large black paper cut-outs set against stark white walls.’
      • ‘And the t-shirt design is funny: all black silhouettes with one white one.’
      • ‘The artwork is replete with puns that play on the shapes and silhouettes of individual motifs.’
      • ‘The ad has little black Victorian silhouettes and a pineapple as its logo.’
      • ‘Perhaps because the original inspiration for the silhouettes lies in book-size illustrations, the modest scale suits these works perfectly.’
      • ‘Among the items on view are paintings, drawings, prints, posters, sculptures, zinc silhouettes and ephemera.’

verb

[with object]usually be silhouetted
  • Cast or show (someone or something) as a dark shape and outline against a lighter background.

    ‘the castle was silhouetted against the sky’
    • ‘All I could see were glowing puffs in the west: gloriously orange and then mellowing to a yellow and peaking to a pink: all the time silhouetting the city that stretched small in front of it.’
    • ‘He squinted against the bright sun that silhouetted the figure of the ship.’
    • ‘The three of them were silhouetted, one of the adults crouching, the boy standing at his shoulder.’
    • ‘Even though it was dark, the moonlight silhouetted the intricate stone outline of the school.’
    • ‘He was silhouetted by the bright sky behind him and yet Pen felt as if she had just seen his face.’
    • ‘The figure standing outside in the rain was silhouetted, but it had to be Martin.’
    • ‘A tiny black dot is silhouetted against the massive bright disc that is the sun, moving slowly across the bottom.’
    • ‘Sheet lightening turned on and off and silhouetted the palm trees for hours.’
    • ‘Before we were halfway across the inlet, heading straight for the town, we noticed a faint pink glow appearing low down in the sky ahead, silhouetting the roofs of Mwanza, and this became brighter and rosier as we watched.’
    • ‘A streak of lightning spiderwebbed across the sky above them, silhouetting Samren's figure against the grey sky that was quickly turning black.’
    • ‘Across the dark horizon the moon silhouetted a small town which came into view soon enough.’
    • ‘These delicate blossoms are displayed to their best advantage by silhouetting them against a brick wall or a hedge of holly or yew.’
    • ‘The door opened and a figure was silhouetted in the brightness from outside.’
    • ‘In Bryce Canyon in Utah, for example, you would certainly want to concentrate on the shapes of the stone spires by silhouetting them against an open sky or finding patterns in the repeating shapes.’
    • ‘Before the young man knew what was happening, two of the figures at the alley's entrance fell silently, silhouetting another dark figure with a silver longsword in his or her hand.’
    • ‘Out of our windows west across SoHo there is a gorgeous sunset silhouetting the water towers.’
    • ‘Two figures were silhouetted in the entrance, one short and stumpy, the other tall and lithe.’
    • ‘Blinding white light shone into the room, silhouetting a tall figure standing in the doorway, hands blazing with power.’
    • ‘The twisting limbs of oak trees are silhouetted against a darkening sky as a nearly full moon rises in the east.’
    • ‘He was silhouetted against the outlines of the two empty beds across the room.’
    outline, etch, delineate, define, demarcate, delimit, mark off, trace
    View synonyms

Phrases

  • in silhouette

    • Seen or placed as a silhouette.

      • ‘He stood in silhouette in the doorframe, head down, leaning against the side as if exhausted.’
      • ‘In the foreground on the left, Babu has painted a galloping horse in silhouette, a series of four movements which culminate in the animal standing still.’
      • ‘There, standing in silhouette against a backdrop of open sky and sweeping land, stood a man and his dog.’
      • ‘Using the giraffe as a starting point, the logo is rendered in silhouette, and the pattern on its hide is used for abstract decoration.’
      • ‘He had his picture taken and reproduced in silhouette for a brochure put out by a contractor he was working for.’
      • ‘And it was beautiful, as you could see all the way to Whitby, crystal clear with no shimmer or haze; the pier and the Abbey were caught in silhouette, so sharply defined that by illusion they appeared quite near.’
      • ‘In some of the pictures the sun was behind the object being photographed, yet the details of those objects facing the camera, which should have been in silhouette, were clear and well-lit.’
      • ‘The opening moment, when a dot of light expands to fill the stage and reveal a child's rocking horse in silhouette, is not just fabulous to watch but underlines Quixote's childlike nature and the sense that all life is an illusion.’
      • ‘In these two paintings, the women are depicted impressively in silhouette, just with brownish-black faces without details of eyes, noses and mouths.’
      • ‘Connie sashays to the doorway where she stands in silhouette for a long, luxurious moment.’

Origin

Late 18th century: named (although the reason remains uncertain) after Étienne de Silhouette (1709–67), French author and politician.

Pronunciation

silhouette

/ˌsɪluˈɛt//ˌsilo͞oˈet/