Throwing Shade – Origin, Meaning & Examples

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

You’ve heard the phrase “throwing shade,” right? It’s one that’s become really common in modern English, specifically in the context of pop culture and social media communities. People just throw shade all over the place online. But what does “throwing shade” actually mean? I’ve got the answer right here, where I explain everything you need to know!

Throwing Shade Meaning Explained

Throwing Shade Origin Meaning Examples

“Throwing shade” is what we consider a colloquial expression or an idiom in English. It’s used to describe the act of making a subtle criticism towards someone else, whether that’s in person or online.

The person “throwing shade” might use concepts like sarcasm, irony, or other rhetorical devices to criticize or insult the person they have in their sight. While you can outright attack someone with your words, throwing shade is usually more reserved and slight, like a quick dig.

A good example is Taylor Swift. She throws shade at all her haters through her lyrics and even her outfits. It’s subtle that most people wouldn’t notice, but Swifties do!

Origin of Throw Shade Meaning

It’s actually a fairly new concept, dating back to somewhere in the 1980s, in the black and Latino communities of gays and drag queens, specifically. They used the term “shade” as a roundabout way of insulting a fellow queen.

In 1990, there was a documentary made about the whole drag scene titled Paris Is Burning, and Dorian Corey (a drag queen) discusses how the term became what it is.

They said, “Shade is, I don’t have to tell you you’re ugly because you know you’re ugly.”

Is Throwing Shade an Idiom?

“Throwing shade” is definitely classified as an idiom because it’s a figurative expression that isn’t understood from the literal meanings of the words. Similar idioms are “getting under your skin,” “starry-eyed,” and “dirty pool.”

What’s Another Word for Throwing Shade?

Synonyms are fun and a great way to switch up the repetitiveness in your writing. Use any of these terms instead of “throwing shade,” and you’re message will still come across.

  • Diss
  • Insult
  • Criticize
  • Mock
  • Belittle

Throwing Shade Examples in a Sentence

Throwing Shade Origin Meaning Examples 1
  • Did you hear the way Katie talked about Vanessa? She was totally throwing shade at her boyfriend.
  • I don’t think she meant to throw shade, but her comments were definitely a subtle criticism of my ability to do this job.
  • Craig’s always throwing shade at his coworkers, but he never has the courage to confront them directly. Coward!
  • I can’t help but throw shade at my ex. I’m sorry; I just need to vent.
  • I have to be honest and tell you that Mark has been throwing shade around about you all week.
  • My neighbor throws shade about my unique garden to the other neighbors on our block, but we all know she’s just jealous.

Don’t Throw Shade

It sucks to have someone talk about you behind your back or make subtle digs at you, but that’s what throwing shade really means. Now that you have a better idea of the phrase, you can use it correctly!