Throwing Shade – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Mid-90s Hip-hop culture can be credited with introducing the act of “throwing shade” at another person. In recent years, the term has been increasingly shortened to “shading” as verbiage in social media.

If you are looking for a way to get back at someone online or just be a little passive aggressive without getting in a fight, throwing shade is the best way to go about it.

This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


Throwing shade is a metaphorical comparison to tainting the spotlight for someone or something receiving positive attention from a large audience. The phrase may apply to someone who appears jealous of another’s distinction or take exception to accolades received by that person.

The terminology is intended to deflect the notion of jealousy as a character flaw, and reinforce a sense of blatancy and emboldened opinions. The primary objective of throwing shade is to cast a shadow over something that is presented as praiseworthy while ultimately shifting the spotlight to the individual throwing shade.

Example Usage

“Did you see Jennifer Lopez throwing shade at Shakira?’

“He is always throwing shade at people on the internet for no reason”

“It seems like throwing shade is the first thing people do these days”

“Instead of throwing shade all the time, why don’t you just confront them?”

“Every time he sees her in a new relationship he starts throwing shade her way”

“Don’t you ever get tired of throwing shade at everyone who looks at you sideways?”


One of the earliest recognizable uses of “throwing shade” in popular culture was in 1996 on the Lil’ Kim song “Crush On You” whereby the Brooklyn, NY rapper exclaims “I’m going to throw shade if I can’t be paid.” as a metaphor for her motivation to earn money. This further iterates the competitive nature of the act of throwing shade as an interchangeable phrase for “I’m jealous of.”. The tone of the phrase seeks to redefine the way a person perceives otherwise envious language by emphasizing it as deliberate and applicable to a situation.

Throwing shade may or not be reserved for use in situations exclusively involving females that participate in gossip through various mediums (social media, social circles, etc.). Males may also participate in the act of throwing shade at one another or toward different genders, but may find the terminology to be less applicable to them for fear of emasculation. Urban culture is especially critical of men who exhibit traits they may deem as female traits, such as throwing shade.

Phrases Similar to Throwing Shade

  • “Hating On.”
  • “Fronting On.”
  • “Dissing.”

Phrases opposite to Throwing Shade

  • “Gassing Up.”
  • “Uplifting.”
  • “Glorifying.”

What is The Correct Saying?

Throwing shade is a passive aggressive way to insult someone indirectly, the correct saying is throwing shade.

  • “Tonya took the opportunity to throw shade at the producers of the show during her acceptance speech at the movie awards last night.”
  • “It’s unclear as to what the benefit of throwing shade

Ways People May Incorrectly Say Throwing Shade

Throwing shade can be confused with a person who is described as “shady”, which means mistrustful or not forthcoming. This can be further confusing when a person may believe that the act of throwing shade is ultimately calling another person shady. These two dimensions of urban slang are time-applicable terms, meaning the 90s and 00s did not necessarily use throwing shade in such well known settings. Whereas shady was popularized much earlier (i.e. Eminem – Slim Shady).

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Throwing Shade

  • Mandy was throwing shade at the cheerleading team over stealing her moves.
  • Throwing shade is such a childish and useless activity, why not call them out instead?
  • You are never going to feel good if all you do is throw shade when someone talks about you.
  • Cardi B is always responding to people who try to throw shade her way on Instagram.

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