Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.


When he rose from his chair his body came in silhouette against their light.

At one window he saw Charles Phillips' silhouette; he was reading, apparently.

The silhouette on the mantelpiece is of aunt Mercy, his mother's unmarried sister.

Then the silhouette seemed to float down out of sight, and was gone.

Then the old man's form appeared in silhouette against the dark.

"Gault has some reason for not wanting his silhouette touched," he said.

Leaning over, she marvelled at the silhouette of her own slim figure.

Pete produced the silhouette of a young lady, and handed it round.

The silhouette disappeared, and, shortly afterwards, the gray luminance.

She saw the silhouette of rose branches in black on the sky.


1798, from French silhouette, in reference to Étienne de Silhouette (1709-1767), French minister of finance in 1759. Usually said to be so called because it was an inexpensive way of making a likeness of someone, a derisive reference to Silhouette's petty economies to finance the Seven Years' War, which were unpopular among the nobility. But other theories are that it refers to his brief tenure in office, or the story that he decorated his chateau with such portraits.

Used of any sort of dark outline or shadow in profile from 1843. The verb is recorded from 1876, from the noun. The family name is a Frenchified form of a Basque surname; Arnaud de Silhouette, the finance minister's father, was from Biarritz in the French Basque country; the southern Basque form of the name would be Zuloeta or Zulueta, which contains the suffix -eta "abundance of" and zulo "hole" (possibly here meaning "cave").


Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.