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silhouette

Meaning: the outline of a dark shape on a light background; often the profile (side view) of a human face

For example:

  • Her shadow cast a silhouette on the wall.

  • We could see the silhouettes of the buildings in the sky.

Note: The letter /h/ is silent in this word.

Origin: Etienne de Silhouette (1709-1767) was a French minister of finance who imposed heavy taxes. People could not afford to get their portraits painted, so instead they got profile paper cutouts made. At the time, anything that was made cheaply was associated with the name "Silhouette".

Quick Quiz:

You are most likely to see the silhouette of a bird in

a. the sky

b. a mirror

c. a cage

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Contributor: Tara Benwell