a. A written or printed symbol representing something other than a letter, especially a number.
b. figures Mathematical calculations: good at figures.
c. An amount represented in numbers: sold for a large figure.
d. figures One of the digits specified as making up a larger number: a salary in the six figures.
a. Mathematics A geometric form consisting of any combination of points, lines, or planes: A triangle is a plane figure.
b. The outline, form, or silhouette of a thing: saw the figure of a cat in the window.
c. The shape or form of a human body: a fashion model with an attractive figure.
d. An indistinct object or shape: The figures in the mist turned out to be lampposts.
3. A person, especially a well-known one: a famous historical figure.
4. Impression or appearance made: cut a dashing figure at the reception.
5. A person, animal, or object that symbolizes something.
6. A pictorial or sculptural representation, especially of the human body.
a. A diagram: drew a figure of the office layout.
b. A design or pattern, as in a textile: silk with a paisley figure.
c. An illustration printed from an engraved plate or block.
a. A configuration or distinct group of steps in a dance.
b. A pattern traced by a series of movements, as in ice skating.
9. Music A brief melodic or harmonic unit often constituting the basis of a larger phrase or structure.
10. Logic Any one of the forms that a syllogism can take, given one of the four possible arrangements of the middle term.
v. fig·ured, fig·ur·ing, fig·ures
1. Mathematics To calculate with numbers: figured the sum to be nearly a million.
2. To make a likeness of; depict.
3. To adorn with a design or figures.
a. To write a sequence of conventionalized numbers below or above (the bassline) to indicate harmony.
b. To embellish with an ornamental pattern.
a. To conclude, believe, or predict: I never figured that this would happen.
b. To consider or regard: figured them as con artists.
v. intr.Phrasal Verbs:
1. Mathematics To calculate; compute.
a. To be or seem important or prominent: a key fact that figures in our understanding of what happened.
b. To be pertinent or involved: His advice barely figured in my decision.
3. Informal To seem reasonable or expected: “I found my keys in the sofa.” “Well, that figures, given that you were sitting there last night.”
To add in or include, as in making an account: figured in travel expenses when estimating the cost.
figure on Informal
1. To depend on: We figured on your support.
2. To take into consideration; expect: I figured on an hour's delay.
3. To plan: We figure on leaving at noon.
1. To discover or decide: Let's figure out a way to help.
2. To solve or decipher: Can you figure out this puzzle?
Used in the imperative to indicate the unexpectedness or absurdity of something.
[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin figūra; see dheigh- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: figure, design, device, motif, pattern
These nouns denote an element or arrangement of elements in a decorative composition: a tapestry with a floral figure; a rug with a geometric design; a brooch with a fanciful and intricate device; a scarf with a heart motif; fabric with a plaid pattern. See Also Synonyms at calculate, form.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.