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


He saw them laughing, flushed, silhouetted against the green, distant trees.

Each figure for a moment was silhouetted against the sky, for the sun was low.

They were silhouetted against the sky and were moving back and forth.

He gestured with one plump hand toward the silhouetted ship.

For a second he was silhouetted against a skyline, then he plunged down.

The figure of a woman was silhouetted against the yellow light of the hall.

But for the fraction of an instant they were silhouetted against the silver wings.

The dark form of Basil, silhouetted by the moonlight, was confronting him.

Robbie sat at their feet, alert, upright, silhouetted against the sky.

He sees the large mass as it is silhouetted against 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.