To throw shade is an American idiom with its roots in the 1990s. An idiom is a word, group of words or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal meaning. Once a term used by a marginalized culture, to throw shade has entered everyday speech. We will examine the definition of to throw shade, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.
To throw shade means to insult someone or to trash talk someone. However, the term to throw shade has a nuance that is not always understood by mainstream English speakers. Insults delivered when throwing shade should be subtle and not necessarily appear to be insulting at first. For instance, if one of your friends has a new haircut you don’t like you might say, “Look at your hair!” This is not a direct appraisal of what you don’t like about the haircut and is not even a negative comment, but it is not a positive comment, either. The idea is that it is a shady, or dishonest, comment. The idiom to throw shade was born in the African-American and Latino drag-performing community of the 1980s and 1990s, and was introduced to mainstream culture in the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning. Throw shade is now listed in the Oxford English Dictionary, related terms are throws shade, threw shade and throwing shade.
The rules: If something annoys her enough to throw shade, she’ll put on her sunglasses; if she’s not bothered by it, she’ll leave them off. (Cosmopolitan Magazine)
Her tough talk has been turned into memes, as millennials talk about how she’s ‘throwing shade’ at President Trump and his administration. (The Daily Mail)