Definition of form in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /fôrm/


1The visible shape or configuration of something: the form, color, and texture of the tree
More example sentences
  • One of the nicest seasons of the year is autumn and it reflects itself in many shapes, colours and forms.
  • It is the rare gardener who is not smitten by their array of brilliant colors and graceful forms.
  • This urban contemporary collection keeps things in perspective with simple forms, clean lines and subtle shapes.
1.1Arrangement of parts; shape: the entities underlying physical form
More example sentences
  • Undoubtedly the subject will now be well lit, but you have also removed shape and form from the photograph.
  • Standing at the end of the pond, the carefully manicured view gives the semblance of natural form and perfect scale.
  • During the week my days had lost all form, structure and familiarity.
1.2The body or shape of a person or thing: his eyes scanned her slender form
More example sentences
  • Suddenly, they noticed the form of an animal ahead, leaning down to drink.
  • He held her so that she could not move, his strong arms encircled about her slender form.
  • Her slender form was a crumpled heap in his arms, with bruises and blood marring her creamy white skin.
body, shape, figure, stature, build, frame, physique, anatomy
informal vital statistics
1.3Arrangement and style in literary or musical composition: these videos are a triumph of form over content
More example sentences
  • In the argument of content over form or vice-versa, here content dictates form.
  • The book reflects the structure of the conference in both form and content in an attempt to capture the dynamism of the event.
  • Branagh's film thus presents us once again with a provocative conflict between form and content.
1.4 Philosophy The essential nature of a species or thing, especially (in Plato’s thought) regarded as an abstract ideal that real things imitate or participate in.
Example sentences
  • Whitehead sees them as ingredients in an experience and rather similar to Plato's ideal forms.
  • Art as vision locates the subject of art in the artist, not in an external world of real or ideal forms.
  • The most adequately objective knowledge we could have would be of the nature of these abiding forms fixed in the nature of things.
2A mold, frame, or block in or on which something is shaped.
Example sentences
  • You fill the forms with stone and concrete, then ‘slip’ the forms up for the next level.
mold, cast, shape, matrix, die
2.1A temporary structure for holding fresh concrete in shape while it sets.
Example sentences
  • After the spread footing pour has set, a concrete pier form is placed on top of the footing.
  • Passive form oils usually do not leave a dusty layer on the form or the concrete.
3A particular way in which a thing exists or appears; a manifestation: her obsession has taken the form of compulsive exercise
More example sentences
  • Virtually all the important research continues to appear in the form of papers in journals.
  • Draft policies then appeared in the form of reports brought before Council for formal approval.
  • The survey will be in the form of a questionnaire, asking about people's experience of the NHS in their area.
manifestation, appearance, embodiment, incarnation, semblance, shape, guise
3.1Any of the ways in which a word may be spelled, pronounced, or inflected: an adjectival rather than adverbial form
More example sentences
  • In other instances, there are related prepositional and adverbial forms.
  • These different shapes spell out word forms that belong to the verb lexeme crown.
  • English does not require the use of gender-differentiated forms of the definite article and other similar words.
3.2The structure of a word, phrase, sentence, or discourse: every distinction in meaning is associated with a distinction in form
More example sentences
  • One also needs to pay attention to the syntactic form of the sentences.
  • The meaning of individual words is linked to the overall grammatical form of the sentence.
  • Sentences of this form are called conditionals, and will concern us a good deal in the next chapter.
4A type or variety of something: sponsorship is a form of advertising
More example sentences
  • The two most effective forms of mass direct action are riots and strikes.
  • Early forms of male pattern balding do well with treatment.
  • The geological period known as the Cambrian is marked by the rather sudden appearance of all the basic forms of animals now in existence.
kind, sort, type, class, classification, category, variety, genre, brand, style;
species, genus, family
4.1An artistic or literary genre.
Example sentences
  • Prolific and hard-working, de Pisan wrote in most of the contemporary forms and genres.
  • The satirist may use different forms of literature in prose or verse.
  • Film-making is best learned on the job, like many other artistic or literary forms.
4.2 Botany A taxonomic category that ranks below variety, which contains organisms differing from the typical kind in some trivial, frequently impermanent, character, e.g., a color variant. Compare with subspecies and variety.
Example sentences
  • Seventeen species/botanical forms representing all the Old World lupins and one New World species were used in the experiment.
  • The islands are very rich floristically, with a high proportion of shrubs and other woody forms.
  • Indeed, like most flowering plants, both forms were hermaphrodites.
5The customary or correct method or procedure; what is usually done: an excessive concern for legal form and precedent
More example sentences
  • This is not correct form in polite company, but then, I generally avoid polite company.
  • Beneath these arguments about legal form lie the wider issues of self-determination.
  • For form's sake, she apologised and said she'd replace it.
etiquette, social practice, custom, usage, use, modus operandi, habit, wont, protocol, procedure, rules, convention, tradition, fashion, style
formal praxis
good manners, manners, polite behavior, correct behavior, convention, etiquette, protocol
informal the done thing
5.1A set order of words; a formula.
Example sentences
  • The Rev Chris Swift, a parent himself, agonised over a form of words for a situation he hadn't faced before.
  • I suspect this form of expression is a local custom for elderly people to ward off the envy of jealous gods.
  • Although no particular form of words is necessary the waiver must be express.
5.2A formality or item of mere ceremony: the outward forms of religion
More example sentences
  • The Act of Supremacy (1559) established the Church of England as the State religion. Those who rejected its outward forms and practices were fined, or worse.
  • It is true that this general election does still adhere to some of the old forms and conventions of British democracy.
  • Divine activities do not seem to be limited only to forms which have undergone ritual consecration.
6A printed document with blank spaces for information to be inserted: an application form
More example sentences
  • You can print off application forms through the official website.
  • You will have to fill out an application form and there will be questions about your medical history and your lifestyle.
  • As soon as the EU Commission approves the scheme the necessary application forms will be made available to farmers.
questionnaire, document, coupon, paper, sheet
7chiefly British A class or year in a school, usually given a specifying number: the fifth form
More example sentences
  • I am a supply teacher and I have been for the past nine years teaching in primary schools, high schools, sixth forms and colleges.
  • It plans to do this by reducing four of its year groups from three forms per year to two forms by merging the classes.
  • I took her straight back to see her form tutor and they promised to do something about it.
8The state of an athlete or sports team with regard to their current standard of performance: illness has affected his form they’ve been in good form this season
More example sentences
  • Based on the two teams' current form, today's encounter looks set to be close fought and could go either way.
  • On current domestic form, Liverpool might not see another Champions League night like this for a very long time to come.
  • Their first league victory of the season will surely not be far away with David Bentley in his current form.
fitness, condition, fettle, shape, trim, health
8.1Details of previous performances by a racehorse or greyhound: an interested bystander studying the form
More example sentences
  • For example, when the handicapper allots a weight to a horse for the Grand National, he will look at its previous form.
  • With, of course, no previous form to go on, the weight of money tends to offer significant clues to the outcome.
  • As ladies in elaborate hats paraded and gentlemen in top hat and tails studied form, the royals rode in the traditional Ascot carriage procession.
9British A long bench without a back.
Example sentences
  • The shelter inside was totally dark and one had to grope to find a place to sit on the backless wooden forms.
  • The original seats were old wooden forms which could be pushed back against the wall.
  • It was a truck with a projector in the back that they'd back up to the hall, open a flap in the wall and the projector would poke through that. We'd sit on forms watching cowboy movies, I think cowboy movies was all they showed!
10 Printing , chiefly US variant spelling of forme.
11chiefly British A hare’s lair.
Example sentences
  • Hares lie overnight in ‘forms’, which are a kind of above-ground nest.


[with object]
1Bring together parts or combine to create (something): the company was formed in 1982
More example sentences
  • Neighbours have already got together and formed a community association, which in all but name is a crime fighting force.
  • The growing need for cooperation and integration among Asian countries dictates that East Asian countries get together and move toward forming one community.
  • In 1909, these immigrants and some Americans formed an organization named the Indo-American Association.
set up, establish, found, launch, float, create, bring into being, institute, start (up), get going, initiate, bring about, inaugurate
arrange, draw up, line up, assemble, organize, sort, order, range, array, dispose, marshal, deploy
1.1 (form people/things into) Organize people or things into (a group or body): peasants and miners were formed into a militia
More example sentences
  • The primary objective of the remainder of this module is to explore how to form people into groups or networks.
  • They have unrealistic expectations of what it takes to form people into teams, and they soon discover that the modern work force rejects teamwork, preferring instead to join cliques.
  • In October 1940 a number of somewhat heterogeneous elements were formed into a battalion based at Tenby in Wales.
1.2Go to make up or constitute: the precepts that form the basis of the book
More example sentences
  • It seems to me that these four reasons form a rather weak basis for his claim.
  • It maintains evolution and forms the very basis of cosmic life.
  • He published this method in 1919, and it also formed the basis of his seminal paper on the scattering of plane electric waves by spheres.
constitute, make, make up, compose, add up to
constitute, serve as, act as, function as, perform the function of, do duty for, make
1.3 [no object] Gradually appear or develop: a thick mist was forming all around
More example sentences
  • He smiled slowly to himself, the plan forming gradually in his mind.
  • But when we started to sing, a few passers-by began turning their heads in curiosity and gradually a crowd formed and some even sang with us.
  • All day Sunday, a plan had been forming in my mind.
materialize, come into being/existence, crystallize, emerge, spring up, develop;
take shape, appear, loom, show up, become visible
1.4Conceive (an idea or plan) in one’s mind.
Example sentences
  • You may find it would broaden the mind if you formed your opinions on the world by means other than the Daily Mail.
  • In 1995 he formed the idea of organising an exhibition in Greenwich to celebrate the Millennium.
  • The probability is, however, that Gough has already formed a pretty good idea of where he will be going and that only the final details remain to be settled.
formulate, devise, conceive, work out, think up, lay, draw up, put together, produce, fashion, concoct, forge, hatch, incubate, develop
informal dream up
1.5Enter into or contract (a relationship): the women would form supportive friendships
More example sentences
  • Alliances can be quickly formed, and supportive friendships quickly made.
  • Daladier often poured out his heart to Bullitt in this way, and formed an extremely close relationship with him.
  • We've formed a very good relationship that's like a family to me.
1.6Articulate (a word, speech sound, or other linguistic unit).
Example sentences
  • I tried to talk but I couldn't quite concentrate on single words or forming complete sentences at the moment.
  • His lips kept forming the same words over and over again.
  • She spoke very precisely, every word formed and enunciated with perfect diction.
1.7Construct (a new word) by derivation or inflection.
Example sentences
  • Although they often belong in clusters, complex words are usually formed one at a time in accordance with more or less established patterns.
  • The word was formed by a rather circuitous route, according to the OED's etymological information.
  • New words are formed in a variety of ways, some of which overlap with each other.
2Make or fashion into a certain shape or form: form the dough into balls
More example sentences
  • Bricks are made from clay and other materials which are formed into shapes then fired in a kiln to make them strong and durable.
  • The mixture is heated over a low fire, then formed into shape and cooled.
  • The light surrounded the boy, and formed into the shape of a Chinese dragon.
make, construct, build, manufacture, fabricate, assemble, put together;
create, produce, concoct, devise, contrive, frame, fashion, shape
2.1 [no object] (form into) Be made or fashioned into a certain shape or form: his strong features formed into a smile of pleasure
More example sentences
  • The Austrians were formed up in a strong position 4 miles wide, in an area of rolling country, with the village of Leuthen at their centre, and their flanks protected by marshy ground.
  • He quickly formed his army up to meet an attack, but his crossbowmen were still on the other side of the river.
  • The defenders formed up in a V-shaped formation.
2.2 (be formed) Have a specified shape: her body was slight and flawlessly formed
More example sentences
  • The chapel was small but perfectly formed, constructed like a miniature church.
  • The UK, small but perfectly formed is a great place to be a mountain biker.
  • The hands themselves were beautifully formed, so white they seemed carved of alabaster.
2.3Shape or develop by training or discipline.
Example sentences
  • Augustine writes that hardship is a gift from God that shapes us and forms us into what God wants us to be.
  • Thus, conscience must be formed through education and prayer, and be informed by the teaching of Christ.
  • Think about the way good parents try to form their children. Their work is consistently geared toward an overall plan for their family.
acquire, develop, get, pick up, contract, slip into, get into
2.4Influence or shape (something abstract): the role of the news media in forming public opinion
More example sentences
  • This leads us to another point in the importance of the legends and folklore in forming and shaping a nation's character.
  • Nevertheless, polls are influential in forming public opinion and attitudes.
  • The feminist view of useless men may be extreme, but it has been hugely influential. For Gloria Steinem, who grew up with an alcoholic father, it formed her character and launched an entire movement.
develop, mold, shape, train, teach, instruct, educate, school, drill, discipline, prime, prepare, guide, direct, inform, enlighten, inculcate, indoctrinate, edify



in form

(Of an athlete or sports team) playing or performing well.
Example sentences
  • He is very fast and skillful, and when on form he is the best player in the team.
  • She went out in the second round of the women's doubles but hopes to be back on form for this month's Commonwealth Games.
  • Gough said all of England's players needed to be in form by the start of the Test series in July.

off form

(Of an athlete or sports team) not playing or performing well.
Example sentences
  • Brazil, clear favourites to retain the World Cup in Germany this summer, have several key players out of form and under fire from the media.
  • England's pre-match selection was suspect, with Iain Balshaw chosen at full-back despite being completely out of form.
  • Both clubs have tons of good players but it only takes a couple to be off form and this could be decisive.



Pronunciation: /ˌfôrməˈbilətē/
Example sentences
  • The copper-free alloys of the series have many desirable characteristics: moderate-to-high strength, excellent toughness, and good workability, formability, and weldability.
  • These primary crystals do not have a substantial effect on strength but affect appreciably the formability, fatigue resistance and surface finish.
  • The low carbon steel, of course, has excellent formability.


Example sentences
  • These steels possess an extraordinary combination of ultra-high-strength and fracture toughness and at the same time are formable, weldable, and easy to heat-treat.
  • For most dual phase steels, and also for highly formable interstitial free steels, the stress-strain curves do not conform to the Ludwig's equation.
  • The composites are formable with normal aluminum metal-working techniques and equipment at warm working temperatures.


Middle English: from Old French forme (noun), fo(u)rmer (verb, from Latin formare 'to form'), both based on Latin forma 'a mold or form'.

  • Form goes back to Latin forma ‘a mould or form’, and is an element in many English words such as conform (Middle English) make like something else; deform (Late Middle English) ‘mis-shape’; and reform (Middle English) ‘put back into shape’. Formal (Late Middle English) originally meant ‘relating to form’, and developed the sense ‘prim, stiff’ in the early 16th century. Format (mid 19th century) came via French and German from Latin formatus (liber) ‘shaped (book)’. Formula (early 17th century) was in Latin a ‘little form’ and was at first a fixed form of words used in ceremonies. Use in chemistry is from the mid 19th century.

Words that rhyme with form

conform, corm, dorm, forme, haulm, lukewarm, Maugham, misinform, norm, outperform, perform, shawm, storm, swarm, transform, underperform, warm

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: form

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.