When you measure your shadow to calculate the angle of the sun in the sky, be sure to measure to the edges of your shadow, to the penumbra, the part of a shadow that is not as dark as the center.

You're likely to come across penumbra most often in astronomy, as with an eclipse, where shadow is a defining feature. In a lunar eclipse, the edge of the earth's shadow — the part that isn't fully dark — is its penumbra. Sun spots also have a penumbra, the outer edge that's not quite as dark as the center. The word comes from the Latin root umbra, which means "shadow." The pen part means "almost," so a penumbra is "almost shadow."

Definitions of penumbra
  1. noun
    a fringe region of partial shadow around an umbra
    see moresee less
    type of:
    shade within clear boundaries
Word Family

Test prep from the experts

Boost your test score with programs developed by’s experts.

  • Proven methods: Learn faster, remember longer with our scientific approach.
  • Personalized plan: We customize your experience to maximize your learning.
  • Strategic studying: Focus on the words that are most crucial for success.


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 8 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 500+
  • Duration: 10 weeks or less
  • Time: 1 hour / week


  • Number of words: 700+
  • Duration: 10 weeks
  • Time: 1 hour / week