Entries linking to shadow-boxing
Middle English shadwe, from Old English sceadwe, sceaduwe "shade, the effect of interception of sunlight; dark image cast by someone or something when interposed between an object and a source of light," oblique cases ("to the," "from the," "of the," "in the") of sceadu (see shade (n.)). Shadow is to shade (n.) as meadow is to mead (n.2). Similar formation in Old Saxon skado, Middle Dutch schaeduwe, Dutch schaduw, Old High German scato, German schatten, Gothic skadus "shadow, shade."
From mid-13c. as "darkened area created by shadows, shade." From early 13c. in sense "anything unreal;" mid-14c. as "a ghost." Many senses are from the notion of "that which follows or attends a person." From late 14c. as "a foreshadowing, prefiguration." Meaning "imitation, copy" is from 1690s. Sense of "the faintest trace" is from 1580s; that of "a spy who follows" is from 1859. Many of the modern English senses also were in Latin umbra, Greek skia, along with that of "uninvited guest who an invited one brings with him."
As a designation of members of an opposition party chosen as counterparts of the government in power, it is recorded from 1906. Shadow of Death (c. 1200) translates Vulgate umbra mortis (Psalms xxiii.4, etc.), which translates Greek skia thanatou, itself perhaps a mistranslation of a Hebrew word for "intense darkness." In "Beowulf," Grendel is a sceadugenga, a shadow-goer, and another word for "darkness" is sceaduhelm. To be afraid of one's (own) shadow "be very timorous" is from 1580s.
1620s, "sham-fight for exercise or practice," from Latinized form of Greek skiamakhia "shadow-fighting, a sham fight," from skia "shade, shadow" (see Ascians) + makhē "battle" (see -machy). The notion in the Greek word is said sometimes to be "fighting in the shade" (i.e. practicing in school; ancient teachers taught in shaded public places such as porches and groves), but it seems also to have had a sense of "fighting with shadows, shadow-boxing." In English, often figurative, of futile combat with an imaginary enemy.
updated on July 22, 2022