a. The shape and structure of an object: the form of a snowflake.
b. The body or outward appearance of a person or an animal; figure: In the fog we could see two forms standing on the bridge.
c. A model of the human figure or part of it used for displaying clothes.
d. A mold for the setting of concrete.
a. The way in which a thing exists, acts, or manifests itself: an element usually found in the form of a gas.
b. Philosophy The essential or ideal nature of something, especially as distinguished from its matter or material being.
a. A kind, type, or variety: A cat is a form of mammal.
b. Botany A subdivision of a variety usually differing in one trivial characteristic, such as flower color.
a. Method of arrangement or manner of coordinating elements in verbal or musical composition: presented my ideas in outline form; a treatise in the form of a dialogue.
b. A particular type or example of such arrangement: The essay is a literary form.
a. Procedure as determined or governed by regulation or custom: gave his consent solely as a matter of form.
b. Manners or conduct as governed by etiquette, decorum, or custom: Arriving late to a wedding is considered bad form.
c. A fixed order of words or procedures, as for use in a ceremony: "As they had never had a funeral aboard a ship, they began rehearsing the forms so as to be ready" (Arthur Conan Doyle).
d. A document with blanks for the insertion of details or information: insurance forms.
a. Performance considered with regard to acknowledged criteria: a musician at the top of her form.
b. A pattern of behavior or performance: remained true to form and showed up late.
c. Fitness, as of an athlete or animal, with regard to health or training: a dog in excellent form.
d. A racing form.
7. A grade in a British secondary school or in some American private schools: the sixth form.
a. A linguistic form.
b. The external aspect of words with regard to their inflections, pronunciation, or spelling.
a. Chiefly British A long seat; a bench.
b. The lair or resting place of a hare.
v. formed, form·ing, forms
a. To give form to; shape: form clay into figures.
b. To make or fashion by shaping: form figures out of clay.
c. To develop in the mind; conceive: Her reading led her to form a different opinion.
a. To arrange oneself in: Holding out his arms, the cheerleader formed a T. The acrobats formed a pyramid.
b. To organize or arrange: The environmentalists formed their own party.
c. To fashion, train, or develop by instruction, discipline, or precept: formed the recruits into excellent soldiers.
a. To come to have; develop or acquire: He formed the habit of walking to work.
b. To enter into (a relationship): They formed a friendship.
4. To constitute or compose, especially out of separate elements: the bones that form the skeleton.
a. To produce (a tense, for example) by inflection: form the pluperfect.
b. To make (a word) by derivation or composition.
1. To become formed or shaped: Add enough milk so the dough forms easily into balls.
2. To come into being by taking form; arise: Clouds will form in the afternoon.
3. To assume a specified form, shape, or pattern: The soldiers formed into a column.
[Middle English forme, from Latin fōrma, possibly (via Etruscan) from Greek morphē.]
Synonyms: form, figure, shape, contour, profile
These nouns refer to the external outline of a thing. Form is the outline and structure of a thing as opposed to its substance: the pointed form of a pyramid; a brooch in the form of a lovers' knot. Figure refers usually to form as established by bounding or enclosing lines: The cube is a solid geometric figure. Shape can imply either two-dimensional outline or three-dimensional definition that indicates both outline and bulk or mass: paper cutouts in the shape of flowers and stars; "He faced her, a hooded and cloaked shape" (Joseph Conrad).
Contour refers to the outline and often the surface of a three-dimensional figure or body: the streamlined contour of the hybrid vehicle. Profile denotes the outline of something viewed against a background and especially the outline of the human face in side view: The police took a photograph of the mugger's profile.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.