The adjective shallow can describe things that aren't very deep, like a shallow puddle, or people who don't have much emotional or intellectual depth, like shallow people who judge others on their looks and how much money they have.

Shallow likely comes from the Old English word sceald, which means "shoal," the water near a shoreline. So, shallow describes something that is close to the surface — like the shallow roots of a newly-planted tree or a person whose interest in someone or something isn't very deep. For instance, a shallow person might go to the opening of a new art exhibition not so much to see the artworks as meet the wealthy people on the museum's board of trustees.

Definitions of shallow

adj lacking physical depth; having little spatial extension downward or inward from an outer surface or backward or outward from a center

shallow water”
“a shallow dish”
“a shallow cut”
“a shallow closet”
“established a shallow beachhead”
“hit the ball to shallow left field”
ankle-deep, knee-deep
coming only to the ankle or knee
shallow enough to be crossed by walking or riding on an animal or in a vehicle
relating to the region of shallow water adjoining the seacoast
reefy, shelfy, shelvy, shoaly
full of submerged reefs or sandbanks or shoals
having great spatial extension or penetration downward or inward from an outer surface or backward or laterally or outward from a center; sometimes used in combination
abysmal, abyssal, unfathomable
resembling an abyss in depth; so deep as to be unmeasurable
extremely deep
of or carried on in waters of great depth
profound, unfathomed, unplumbed, unsounded
situated at or extending to great depth; too deep to have been sounded or plumbed
(of e.g. closets or refrigerators) extending very far enough back to allow a person to enter
of depth; not capable of being sounded or measured
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adj lacking depth of intellect or knowledge; concerned only with what is obvious

shallow people”
“his arguments seemed shallow and tedious”
concerned with or comprehending only what is apparent or obvious; not deep or penetrating emotionally or intellectually

adj not deep or strong; not affecting one deeply

shallow breathing”
“a night of shallow fretful sleep”
“in a shallow trance”
light, wakeful
(of sleep) easily disturbed
relatively deep or strong; affecting one deeply
heavy, profound, sound, wakeless
(of sleep) deep and complete
coming from deep within one
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n a stretch of shallow water

Type of:
body of water, water
the part of the earth's surface covered with water (such as a river or lake or ocean)

v make shallow

“The silt shallowed the canal”
Type of:
alter, change, modify
cause to change; make different; cause a transformation

v become shallow

“the lake shallowed over time”
Type of:
undergo a change; become different in essence; losing one's or its original nature

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