What is the word/phrase which describes that type of shade which one can witness on a sunny day under a tree which doesn't have very thick foliage; the one which is a mixture of shadow spots formed by the leaves and light spots from the sunlight coming between them?

  • 1
    Are you looking for an adjective or a noun? Jun 23, 2017 at 8:31
  • 3
    Dappled shade sounds good. But if you're looking for the exact word, I'll suggest this: KOMOREBI. It is a Japanese word (a noun) that literally means the sunlight that filters through the leaves of trees.
    – Sally Hope
    Jun 23, 2017 at 12:26

3 Answers 3


What about dappled shade?

Marked with spots or rounded patches.
‘Nam's yard sat soft-lit under a few swinging lanterns amid dappled shade from the trees.’ (ODO)

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The best place to be today was in the woods, in the dappled shade of Barming Woods, away from the 27.C heat! (Source)

  • 3
    +1 Note that this exact same thing can also be called dappled sun(light). It's possible that some folks use one term when there is more shade than sunlight and the other when there's more sunlight than shade, but in my experience they're almost interchangeable. I tend to see dappled shade more often, except in gardening situations, where it's common for a plant to "prefer" dappled sun.
    – 1006a
    Jun 23, 2017 at 15:57
  • See also: dapple grey as in horses
    – Joe
    Jun 23, 2017 at 15:58
  • @1006a in the gardening scenario I'm sure that's done to emphasize that yes, the plant does need sun (just not too much). Most of the time though, I see "partial sun" or occasionally "partial shade" on planting instructions. I doubt the plant much cares whether it's dappled or just intermittent (i.e. hidden from noonday sun by an overhanging tree or building, but still gets exposure to morning and evening sun).
    – Doktor J
    Jun 23, 2017 at 16:22
  • 2
    @DoktorJ Yes, I imagine that's part of it. In general I think it's probably a product of whether the writer/speaker is thinking of the shade as being more important, or the sun/sunlight. So if you want to get out of the heat or describe a contrast with full sun then dappled shade is the obvious choice, but if you're thinking about how to set your camera's exposure or describing a partial clearing in a wood then dappled sunlight might make more sense, and so forth.
    – 1006a
    Jun 23, 2017 at 16:34

The phrase you might be looking for is

light shade
broken shade

as opposed to

dense shade
deeply shaded

  • 6
    I have never heard anyone use "broken shade" unless they were referring to a lamp shade.
    – ColleenV
    Jun 23, 2017 at 11:50

I really like the answer given by Max, but if you are looking for a less poetic expression with a greater likelihood of comprehension (I feel there might be a few people who might not understand "dappled shade", as good an expression as it is), I would say "patchy shade". On the other hand, if you want a more poetic expression, Max's answer is better.

  • 1
    I think it would be helpful to show how to use "patchy shade" in a sentence and maybe explain a little more about what "patchy" means. It is a bit different from dappled and can be used to describe things other than shade.
    – ColleenV
    Jun 23, 2017 at 11:54

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