Entries linking to shadow-figure
From mid-13c. as "darkened area created by shadows, shade." From early 13c. in sense "anything unreal;" mid-14c. as "a ghost;" 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.
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 itself translates Greek skia thanatou, 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.
c. 1200, "numeral;" mid-13c., "visible appearance of a person;" late 14c., "visible and tangible form of anything," from Old French figure "shape, body; form of a word; figure of speech; symbol, allegory" (10c), from Latin figura "a shape, form, figure; quality, kind, style; figure of speech," in Late Latin "a sketch, drawing" (from PIE root *dheigh- "to form, build").
Philosophical and scientific senses are from use of Latin figura to translate Greek skhema. Meaning "lines forming a shape" is from mid-14c. From mid-14c. as "human body as represented by art;" late 15c. as "a body, the human form as a whole." From late 14c. as "a cut or diagram inserted in text."
The rhetorical use of figure, "peculiar use of words giving meaning different from usual," dates to late 14c.; hence figure of speech (1550s). Figure-skating is from 1835, so called for the circular patterns skaters formerly made on the ice to demonstrate control; they were dropped from international competition in 1990, but the name remains. Figure eight as a shape was originally figure of eight (c. 1600).