AskDefine | Define silhouette

Dictionary Definition



1 an outline of a solid object (as cast by its shadow)
2 a drawing of the outline of an object; filled in with some uniform color


1 project on a background, such as a screen, like a silhouette
2 represent by a silhouette

User Contributed Dictionary

see Silhouette



From silhouette.



  1. A representation of the outlines of an object filled in with a black color; a profile portrait in black, such as a shadow appears to be.


representation of the outlines of an object filled in with a black color


  1. To represent by a silhouette; to project upon a background, so as to be like a silhouette.



Named from Étienne de Silhouette, a French politician.


fr-noun f

Extensive Definition

A silhouette is a view of some object or scene consisting of the outline and a featureless interior, with the silhouette usually being black. The word is an eponym named after Etienne de Silhouette, a finance minister of Louis XV who in 1759 imposed such harsh economic demands upon the French people that his name became synonymous with anything done or made cheaply.


The family name Silhouette is a Frenchified form of a Basque surname, Zilhueta; Arnaud de Silhouette, Etienne's father, was from Biarritz in the French Basque Country; this surname, whose Standard Basque or Batua form is Zuloeta, contains the suffix -eta "abundance of" and zilho, Batua zulo, "hole" (possibly here meaning "cave").

In art

A silhouette is a form of artwork. It is most commonly a human portrait in profile, in black. They do not show any facial expression. Silhouettes are most often made by a skilled silhouette artist by looking at a subject's profile, whether in person or from a photograph, and simply cutting out their likeness freehand.
Two hundred years ago, long before the camera was invented, someone wishing to have an inexpensive portrait created of their loved ones would have visited a silhouette artist. Within minutes and using only a pair of scissors and a skillful eye, he would have produced a little image with a remarkable resemblance to his subject. In America, silhouettes were highly popular from about 1790 to 1840. The invention of the camera signaled the end of the silhouette as a widespread form of portraiture. However, their popularity is being reborn in a new generation of people who appreciate the silhouette as a nostalgic and unique way of capturing a loved one's image.

In popular culture

External links

silhouette in Arabic: سلويت
silhouette in Czech: silueta
silhouette in Danish: Silhuet
silhouette in German: Schattenriss
silhouette in Esperanto: Silueto
silhouette in Persian: سیلوئت
silhouette in French: Silhouette (art)
silhouette in Ido: Silueto
silhouette in Indonesian: Siluet
silhouette in Italian: Silhouette (fotografia)
silhouette in Dutch: Silhouet
silhouette in Norwegian: Silhuett
silhouette in Finnish: Siluetti
silhouette in Swedish: Silhuett
silhouette in Hebrew: צללית

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

adumbration, black and white, broad lines, brouillon, cartoon, charcoal, charcoal drawing, chiaroscuro, configuration, contour, crayon, dark shade, delineate, delineation, design, diagram, doodle, draft, drawing, ebauche, echo, esquisse, features, figuration, figure, framework, galbe, gestalt, gloom, graph, head, limn, line, line drawing, lineaments, lineation, lines, main features, mere shadow, miniature, outline, pastel, pen-and-ink, pencil drawing, penumbra, portrait, portraiture, portrayal, profile, reflection, reflex, relief, rough copy, rough draft, rough outline, shade, shadiness, shadow, shadows numberless, shapes, silver-print drawing, sinopia, skeleton, sketch, skiagram, skiagraph, study, tournure, tracing, umbra, umbrage, umbrageousness, vignette
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