Last night I discovered that there doesn’t appear to be a separate French word for shallow, at least when you’re talking about shallow water, dishes or graves – the term peu profond (‘not very deep’) is used in these cases. If you’re talking about a shallow person, mind, writing, novel, film or conversation though, the word to use is superficiel(le), or you can say that they manque de profondeur (lack depth).
This got me wondering whether there is a Latin word for shallow, when referring to water, etc, which didn’t end up in French. According to my Latin dictionary, shallow is brevis, vadōsus or levis. Another Latin dictionary I checked defines brevis as short, vadōsus as “full of shallows, shallow, shoal” and levis as “light, not heavy” or “smooth, not rough”.
The English word shallow first appeared in writing in the early 15th century schalowe, and is possibly related to schald (Old English sceald) – shoal.