a. The characteristic surface configuration of a thing; an outline or contour: a lake in the shape of an hourglass. See Synonyms at form.
b. Spatial form, contour, or appearance: The sandy coastline is always changing shape.
a. The body or outward appearance of a person or an animal: saw two shapes walking toward her in the night.
b. The contour of a person's body; the figure: a swimmer with a slender shape.
a. A definite or distinctive form: Our discussion acquired the shape of an argument.
b. Form, condition, or embodiment: How is your research project taking shape?
c. A desirable form: a fabric that holds its shape.
a. Assumed or false appearance; guise: a god in the shape of a swan.
b. A ghostly form; a phantom: Shapes appeared in his bedroom at night.
5. Something, such as a mold or pattern, used to give or determine form.
a. The condition of something with regard to effectiveness, use, or appearance: What kind of shape is your car in?
b. Bodily condition, as in regard to muscle tone or endurance: She's in great shape after working out for six months.
tr.v. shaped, shap·ing, shapesPhrasal Verbs:
1. To create or fashion, as:
a. To give a particular form to (a material): shape the dough into baguettes.
b. To create or configure, as from a material: a sculpture that was shaped out of ice.
2. To cause to conform to a particular form: a pool that is shaped like an hourglass; a bone that is shaped to bear weight.
a. To plan or devise: shape a new educational program.
b. To embody in a definite form: shaped a folk tale into an opera.
a. To influence in a formative way: experiences that shaped his identity.
b. To direct the course of: "He shaped history as well as being shaped by it" (Robert J. Samuelson).
To develop into a particular form or condition: This is shaping into one of the biggest scandals of the century.
1. To turn out; develop: This ski season is shaping up to be the best in years.
2. To improve one's performance or behavior so as to meet a standard: Either shape up or ship out.
[Middle English, from Old English gesceap, a creation.]
shapa·ble, shapea·ble adj.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. 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.