AskDefine | Define shape

Dictionary Definition



1 any spatial attributes (especially as defined by outline); "he could barely make out their shapes through the smoke" [syn: form, configuration, contour, conformation]
2 the spatial arrangement of something as distinct from its substance; "geometry is the mathematical science of shape" [syn: form]
3 alternative names for the body of a human being; "Leonardo studied the human body"; "he has a strong physique"; "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" [syn: human body, physical body, material body, soma, build, figure, physique, anatomy, bod, chassis, frame, form, flesh]
4 a concrete representation of an otherwise nebulous concept; "a circle was the embodiment of his concept of life" [syn: embodiment]
5 the visual appearance of something or someone; "the delicate cast of his features" [syn: form, cast]
6 the state of (good) health (especially in the phrases `in condition' or `in shape' or `out of condition' or `out of shape') [syn: condition]
7 the supremem headquarters that advises NATO on military matters and oversees all aspects of the Allied Command Europe [syn: Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe]
8 a perceptual structure; "the composition presents problems for students of musical form"; "a visual pattern must include not only objects but the spaces between them" [syn: form, pattern]


1 shape or influence; give direction to; "experience often determines ability"; "mold public opinion" [syn: determine, mold, influence, regulate]
2 make something, usually for a specific function; "She molded the riceballs carefully"; "Form cylinders from the dough"; "shape a figure"; "Work the metal into a sword" [syn: form, work, mold, mould, forge]
3 give a shape or form to; "shape the dough" [syn: form]

User Contributed Dictionary


see in shape


  • , /ʃeɪp/, /SeIp/
  • Rhymes with: -eɪp

Etymology 1

Old English sceap


  1. The status or condition of something
    • The used bookshop wouldn't offer much due to the poor shape of the book.
  2. Condition of personal health, especially muscular health.
    • The vet checked to see what kind of shape the animal was in.
    • We exercise to keep in good physical shape.
  3. The appearance of something, especially its outline.
    • He cut a square shape out of the cake.
  4. A figure with unspecified appearance; especially a geometric figure.
    • What shape shall we use for the cookies? Stars, circles, or diamonds?
status or condition
  • Chinese: 样子 (yàngzi)
  • Czech: stav, forma
  • Dutch: staat, status
  • Finnish: kunto
  • German: Zustand, Form
  • Hebrew:
  • Japanese: 様子, ようす
  • Swedish: form, tillstånd
  • Telugu: స్థితి(sthiti)
condition of personal health, especially muscular health
  • Czech: forma
  • Dutch: vorm, conditie
  • Finnish: kunto
appearance or outline
  • Arabic:
  • Chinese: 形狀, 形状 (xíngzhuàng)
  • Czech: tvar
  • Dutch: vorm
  • Finnish: muoto
  • French: forme
  • German: Form
  • Hebrew:
  • Hungarian: alak, forma
  • Italian: forma
  • Japanese: , かたち (katachi); , かた (kata)
  • Korean: 모양 (moyang)
  • Polish: kształt
  • Portuguese: forma
  • Russian: форма
  • Slovene: oblika
  • Spanish: forma
  • Swedish: form
  • Telugu: ఆకారం(aakaaram),ఆకృతి (aakruti)
See also

Etymology 2

Old English scieppan


  1. To give something a shape and definition.
    • Shape the dough into a pretzel.
    • For my art project, I plan to shape my clay lump into a bowl.
    • 1932, The American Scholar, page 227, United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa
      The professor never pretended to the academic prerogative of forcing his students into his own channels of reasoning; he entered into and helped shape the discussion but above all he made his men learn to think for themselves and rely upon their own intellectual judgments.
to give something a shape

Extensive Definition

The shape (OE. sceap Eng. created thing) of an object located in some space refers to the part of space occupied by the object as determined by its external boundary — abstracting from other aspects the object may have such as its colour, content, or the substance of which it is composed, as well as from the object's position and orientation in space, and its size.
Simple two-dimensional shapes can be described by basic geometry such as points, line, curves, plane, and so on. Shapes that occur in the physical world are often quite complex; they may be arbitrarily curved as studied by differential geometry, or fractal, as for plants or coastlines).

Rigid shape definition

In geometry, two subsets of a Euclidean space have the same shape if one can be transformed to the other by a combination of translations, rotations (together also called rigid transformations), and uniform scalings. In other words, the shape of a set is all the geometrical information that is invariant to position (including rotation) and scale.
Having the same shape is an equivalence relation, and accordingly a precise mathematical definition of the notion of shape can be given as being an equivalence class of subsets of a Euclidean space having the same shape.
Shapes of physical objects are equal if the subsets of space these objects occupy satisfy the definition above. In particular, the shape does not depend on the size of the object nor on changes in orientation/direction. However, a mirror image could be called a different shape. Shape may change if the object is scaled non uniformly. For example, a sphere becomes an ellipsoid when scaled differently in the vertical and horizontal direction. In other words, preserving axes of symmetry (if they exist) is important for preserving shapes. Also, shape is not necessary determined by only the outer boundary of an object. For example, a solid ice cube and a second ice cube containing an inner cavity (air bubble) do not necessarily have the same shape, even though the outer boundary is identical.
Objects that can be transformed into each other only by rigid transformations and mirroring are congruent. An object is therefore congruent to its mirror image (even if it is not symmetric), but not to a scaled version. Objects that have the same shape or one has the same shape as the other's mirror image (or both if they are themselves symmetric) are called geometrically similar. Thus congruent objects are always geometrically similar, but geometrical similarity additionally allows uniform scaling.

Non-rigid shape definition

A more flexible definition of shape takes into consideration the fact that we often deal with deformable shapes in reality (e.g. a person in different postures, a tree bending in the wind or a hand with different finger positions). By allowing also isometric (or near-isometric) deformations like bending, the intrinsic geometry of the object will stay the same, while subparts might be located at very different positions in space. This definition uses the fact, that geodesics (curves measured along the surface of the object) stay the same, independent of the isometric embedding. This means that the distance from a finger to a toe of a person measured along the body is always the same, no matter how the body is posed. An ant climbing a bendable plant will not notice how the wind moves it around, as only bending and no stretching is involved. It is true that when a body is bent, the wind moves around it, not through it.

Colloquial shape definition

Shape can also be more loosely defined as "the appearance of something, especially its outline". This definition is consistent with the above, in that the shape of a set does not depend on its position, size or orientation. However, it does not always imply an exact mathematical transformation. For example it is common to talk of star-shaped objects even though the number of points of the star is not defined.

Shape analysis

The modern definition of shape has arisen in the field of statistical shape analysis. In particular Procrustes analysis, which is a technique for analysing the statistical distributions of shapes. These techniques have been used to examine the alignments of random points.

External links

shape in German: Form (Geometrie)
shape in Spanish: Figura (geometría)
shape in Estonian: Geomeetriline kujund
shape in Esperanto: Geometria figuro
shape in Scottish Gaelic: Cumadh
shape in Korean: 도형
shape in Italian: Forma geometrica
shape in Japanese: 図形
shape in Polish: Figura płaska
shape in Russian: Фигура (геометрия)
shape in Simple English: Shape
shape in Swedish: Geometrisk figur
shape in Yiddish: געאמעטרישע פארעם
shape in Chinese: 形狀

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Masan, Platonic form, Platonic idea, accommodate, accommodate with, accord, adapt, adapt to, adjust, adjust to, adjustment, aesthetic form, affect, agree with, anatomy, angle, apparition, appearance, archetype, architectonics, architecture, aroma, arrange, arrangement, art form, aspect, assemble, assimilate to, astral, astral spirit, attribute, bad condition, badge, bake, banshee, be guided by, bend, block out, blood, body, body-build, brand, breed, build, building, cachet, calculate, carve, case, cast, change, character, characteristic, chime in with, chisel, clan, coin, color, complexion, comply, comply with, compose, composition, compound, conceit, conceive, conceptualize, concert, concoct, condition, configuration, conform, conformation, constitution, construct, construction, contours, contrive, control, correct, correspond, create, creation, cut, cut out, decree, define, denomination, departed spirit, description, design, designation, determine, develop, devise, differentia, differential, discipline, disembodied spirit, disguise, distinctive feature, dream up, duppy, dybbuk, earmark, effect, efform, eidolon, elaborate, embody in words, erect, estate, evolve, experience imaginatively, express, extrude, fabric, fabricate, fabrication, facet, fall in with, false image, fancy, fantasize, fantasy, fashion, fashioning, feather, feature, fettle, fictionalize, figuration, figure, fire, fit, fitness, fix, flavor, follow, forecast, forge, forging, form, formalize, format, formation, formulate, found, frame, fudge together, gear to, genre, genus, gestalt, get up, getup, ghost, glaze, go by, good condition, govern, grain, grateful dead, guide, guise, gust, hack, hallmark, hant, harmonize, hatch, haunt, hew, ideate, idiocrasy, idiosyncrasy, idolum, ilk, image, imagine, imago, immateriality, impress, impression, improve, incorporeal, incorporeal being, incorporeity, index, indite, individualism, influence, inner form, intend, invent, keynote, kidney, kilter, kin, kind, knead, knock out, label, larva, lay out, lay plans, layout, lemures, lick into shape, light, likeness, line, lineaments, lines, look, lot, make, make a projection, make arrangements, make conform, make up, makeup, making, manes, manner, mannerism, manufacture, mark, marking, materialization, materialize, matrix, mature, meet, methodize, mint, mirage, modality, mode, model, modify, mold, molding, mould, nature, number, observe, odor, oni, order, organic structure, organism, organization, organize, originate, particularity, patch together, pattern, patterning, peculiarity, person, persuasion, phantasm, phantasma, phantasmagoria, phantom, phase, phasis, phasm, phenomenon, phylum, physique, piece together, plan, plan ahead, poltergeist, pot, prearrange, prefabricate, prepare, presence, proceed, produce, production, profile, program, progress, project, property, prototype, put, put together, put up, quality, quirk, race, raise, rationalize, rear, reconcile, rectify, reference, regard, regulate, remodel, repair, respect, revenant, rough out, roughcast, rub off corners, run up, savor, schedule, schematize, sculpt, sculpture, seal, seeming, semblance, set, set up, settle, setup, shade, shadow, shape up, shaping, show improvement, shrouded spirit, side, significant form, silhouette, simulacrum, singularity, slant, smack, sort, specialty, species, specter, spectral ghost, spirit, spook, sprite, stamp, state, status, straighten, strain, stripe, structure, structuring, style, suit, suppose, systematize, tailor, taint, take form, take shape, tally with, tang, taste, tectonics, tenor, texture, the like of, the likes of, theophany, thermoform, think up, throw, tissue, token, tone, total effect, trait, tribe, trick, trim, turn, turn a pot, twist, type, unsubstantiality, variety, view, viewpoint, vision, waking dream, walking dead man, wandering soul, warp and woof, way, weave, web, whack, whomp up, wildest dream, wise, word, work, work out, work up, wraith, write, yield, zombie
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