There are 2 main definitions of shape in English:

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shape 1

Pronunciation: /SHāp/


1The external form or appearance characteristic of someone or something; the outline of an area or figure: she liked the shape of his nose houseplants come in all shapes and sizes chest freezers are square or rectangular in shape
More example sentences
  • Morgan hypothesizes that the mound shape was first outlined by a line of posts set in a wall trench, which served as a retaining wall for the fill.
  • Suddenly, he noticed a translucent, dark purple flame floating two or three inches away from his sister's skin, outlining the shape of her body.
  • For this he reconstructed a Neolithic forest whose outline forms the shape of an endangered falcon.
form, appearance, configuration, formation, structure;
1.1A person or thing that is difficult to see and identify clearly: he saw a shape through the mist
More example sentences
  • Slowly the world started to leak in to her mind, her eyes started to identify shapes; she could see the centurions crowded around her whispering.
  • Holding out in front of her, trying to keep it steady, she pointed it at several of the moving shapes but couldn't identify any of them.
  • The field was denser than the War Six field, but the obstacles were more visible and their shapes were easier to identify.
1.2A specific form or guise assumed by someone or something: a fiend in human shape
More example sentences
  • The cloud assumes a human shape, and begins to solidify.
  • Were they a more human form of a being that could assume the shape of any creature on Earth?
  • Clouds excite him partly because they perpetually assume new shapes.
guise, likeness, semblance, form, appearance, image
1.3A piece of material, paper, etc., made or cut in a particular form: stick paper shapes on for the puppet’s eyes and nose
More example sentences
  • Then separate shapes are made by actually cutting the mesh into shapes and casting the paper straight into shapes on the J cloth.
  • Cut simple holiday shapes out of paper or felt, then hang with thread from curtain rods, hanging lamps, doorways or over the outside of a lampshade.
  • Gris too made extensive use of papier collé, and Matisse's use of cut-out paper shapes in his late work is a development of the technique.
2 [with adjective] The particular condition or state of someone or something: he was in no shape to drive the building was in poor shape
More example sentences
  • The Great Depression of this century will probably hit much harder that that of the 1930s since our country is in so much poorer financial shape.
  • Data-mining projects are generally a good bet for companies in poor financial shape, looking to technology for quick payback, he says.
  • With those kinds of income gains, consumers will be in excellent shape to face the financial challenges that 2005 will bring.
2.1The distinctive nature or qualities of something: the future shape and direction of the country
More example sentences
  • Our new understanding will lead us to new tools, which will ‘change the nature and shape of firms.’
  • A fulfilled national dream, the railway changed the lives of every man, woman and child in Canada and altered the future and shape of the nation.
  • The shape of future health-care legislation is yet to be seen.
2.2Definite or orderly arrangement: check that your structure will give shape to your essay
More example sentences
  • Paterson's love commands that we look deep into the objects that give shape to things: shadow, mirror, glass.
  • The okomfo, however, will throw out clues to onlookers so as to differentiate and give shape to each obosom.
  • Yet individuals do not have to be rich or famous for their passions to give shape to a community.


[with object]
1Give a particular shape or form to: most caves are shaped by the flow of water through limestone shape the dough into two-inch balls
More example sentences
  • Each flavor contains one of Denali's proprietary inclusions such as the Bear Foot Cookie Dough, which is shaped like a bear's foot.
  • When the dough has been shaped into a pyramid, a thick meat and potato stew is poured round it and decorated with whole hard-boiled eggs.
  • Samsung, one of Asia's leaders in design, shaped its Compact Mobile Phone concept like a woman's compact.
form, fashion, make, mold, model, cast;
sculpt, sculpture, carve, cut, whittle
1.1Make (something) fit the form of something else: [with object and infinitive]: suits have been shaped to fit so snugly that no curve is undefined
More example sentences
  • Every block was shaped to fit just so, leaving little more than a paper-thin gap in between.
  • The tile will be safe for the example load if the trench bottom is shaped to fit the tile rather than left flat.
  • The fitted and shaped waist styling really suits hour glass figures and can only be welcomed by women who are not stick thin and have voluptuous curves to show.
1.2Determine the nature of; have a great influence on: his childhood was shaped by a loving relationship with his elder brother
More example sentences
  • And thus it was that the career of a great Indian batsman was influenced and shaped by the example of a great Pakistani batsman.
  • We of the Never-Never was extremely influential in shaping urban Australia's view of the outback - more than a million copies have been sold, it was adapted for schools, and a film version appeared in 1982.
  • Above and beyond contemporary political struggles, the migration of labor can play an interesting role in shaping the very nature of political institutions and the role they play.
determine, form, fashion, mold, define, develop;
influence, affect
1.3 [no object] US Develop in a particular way; progress: the yacht was shaping well in trials
More example sentences
  • So, it'll be interesting to see how, in fact, a trial shapes up.
  • Her partnership was shaping up nicely along with her plan.
  • So far, May is shaping up like this for Jacksonville Economic Development Commission meetings.
1.4Form or produce (a sound or words).
Example sentences
  • Lips shaping words that Althia didn't recognize, Morgana closed her eyes and retreated several steps so that her arms were stretched as far as possible while she continued to grasp Althia's arms.
  • Violet, however, was genuinely deep in thought, her lips shaping the words as she puzzled out the riddle.
  • Lips shaped silent words and their faces were upturned towards the stone woman.



get into shape (or get someone into shape)

Become (or make someone) physically fitter by exercise: if you’re thinking of getting into shape, take it easy and build up slowly
More example sentences
  • Tonight, we're revealing how the stars fatten up, slim down and do what it takes to get into shape for the silver screen.
  • And now what everyone is dying to know is how did she get into shape for the role?
  • But signing up meant their progress - as well as their age and weight - would be chronicled as they got into shape during 2003.

in any (way) shape or form

In any manner or under any circumstances (used for emphasis): 96 percent of the electorate voted against Europeanization in any shape or form
More example sentences
  • We were not involved in the investigation in any way, shape, or form.
  • But somebody came to me, which was my mother, and told me that if anybody's going to be affiliated with me in any way, shape, or form, it was going to be because of who I am on the inside, not what my appearance was to be.
  • I am not affiliated with the gambling industry in any way, shape, or form, nor do I gamble myself or own any gambling related shares.

in (good) shape

In good physical condition.
Example sentences
  • So I figured that getting in shape and being physically fit would really help me.
  • It is no surprise that stars in Hollywood are known for going to extremes to keep their bodies in shape.
  • See what it would take to get one of America's best-known businesses back in shape.

in the shape of

Represented or embodied by: retribution arrived in the shape of my irate father
More example sentences
  • The turning point arrived in the shape of a small, solid female a bit wider than she was tall.
  • The parting with Victoria was painful, even though an irresistible competitor in the shape of Albert had arrived.
  • But further reasons did come, in the shape of Pakistan's May-end testing of missiles.

whip (or knock or lick) someone/something into shape

Act forcefully to bring someone or something into a fitter, more efficient, or better organized state: a man who whips a chamber orchestra into shape
More example sentences
  • He is determined his team hits the ground running from day one this season so he's devised a vigorous training regime to whip his players into shape.
  • But then their job was to judge people who had no idea what they wanted to do and then send them out to companies or jobs where we could be knocked into shape by the system.
  • This time, the York College employee will put a bunch of self-confessed ‘bad lads’, aged 18 to 24, through their paces in an attempt to see if four weeks of a strict 1950s regime can lick them into shape.

out of shape

1(Of an object) not having its usual or original shape, especially after being bent or knocked: check that the pipe end and compression nut are not bent out of shape
More example sentences
  • There wasn't very much of the stuff in there because the pot was small, and more than a little bent out of shape, but the aroma was warm and comforting.
  • The springs had long since grown hard and bent out of shape.
  • The long powerful rotor blades struck a side building and bent out of shape before flying off the top of the helicopter.
2(Of a person) in poor physical condition; unfit.
Example sentences
  • It's also critical to change bad physical habits - such as being out of shape and having poor posture - to completely resolve these injuries.
  • Besides getting out of shape, physical problems can hurt your self-esteem, especially if you begin to doubt your abilities.
  • After all, I was 46 years old and out of shape and condition, but I'm well on my way.

the shape of things to come

The way the future is likely to develop.
The title of a novel by H. G. Wells (1933)
Example sentences
  • Unlike Agee, then, who was drawn to elegy, Martínez is drawn to prophecy: he sees the provinces as the future, the towns of Cherán and Warren as the shape of things to come.
  • Albeit clever, imaginative, notably fertile, this squeaky-voiced, scurrying little ladies' man, the prophet of the shape of things to come, fell short, in every sense, of his predecessor's measure.
  • Every day, a creation takes place as new uses, new mistakes, new copy is generated, each creating a new meaning for the shape of things to come.

shape up or ship out

informal, chiefly North American Used as an ultimatum to someone to improve their performance or behavior or face being made to leave.
Example sentences
  • ‘Nah,’ interrupted another, ‘I heard that he's very strict and that he's going to make this school shape up or ship out.‘
  • ‘Australia is our compassionate mother, and I say to every person living in Australia, from the person in the highest office down to the ordinary man on the street, love this country or leave it, shape up or ship out,’ he said.
  • The gist of what they told us was this: shape up or ship out.

take shape

Assume a distinct form; develop into something definite or tangible: the past few months have seen the state’s health insurance legislation begin to take shape
More example sentences
  • The party, now in its 12th year, helped residents build a sense of community back when the development was just taking shape.
  • Here's a look at some of the other developments taking shape around town.
  • The question that remains, however, is what alternative narrative takes shape where the developmental trajectory of the narrative of self-making leaves off.
become clear, become definite, become tangible, crystallize, come together, fall into place

Phrasal verbs

shape up

Develop or happen in a particular way: it was shaping up to be another bleak year
More example sentences
  • Although no parliamentary seats are at stake, the vote is shaping up as a referendum on the government's performance since it took power in June, 2002.
informal1.1 Improve performance or behavior: we have never been afraid to tell our children to shape up
More example sentences
  • If your behavior doesn't shape up here or at school, we may have no choice but to ship you off too!
1.2Become physically fit: I need to shape up
More example sentences
  • If you already have a special someone, shaping up together enhances physical and emotional intimacy since you both are sharing fitness goals and spending time together.
  • Believing that we will inspire our patients to make desperately needed lifestyle changes, the AAFP is promoting the untested hypothesis that family physicians should shape up and become better role models.



(also shapeable) adjective
Example sentences
  • Concrete is fluid and shapeable.
  • Zinc, on the other hand, is considered a go-to metal for laptop hinges because it is robust and shapeable.
  • Little ones can print complex 3D objects with reusable or shapeable materials.


Pronunciation: /ˈSHāpər/
Example sentences
  • The diamonds he watches so closely are not the rocks on the rings of the rich and famous, they are tiny grains of pure carbon coating the blades, polishers and shapers the company produces.
  • So what happens when the opinion shapers - the very origins of mass media and epitome of corporate society - become the target?
  • They speak of an extreme environment far removed from the daily norm and largely unknown to most architects - those professional shapers of human habitation who have been largely absent in the engineering of South Pole habitats.


Old English gesceap 'external form', also 'creation', sceppan 'create', of Germanic origin.

  • An Old English word related to scoop (Middle English) that originally meant ‘to create’. The origins of to lick into shape go back to early medieval animal lore which claimed that bear cubs were born as formless lumps and were licked into shape by their mother. This belief seems to have persisted for some time, as the current use does not appear until the early 17th century. In Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part 3 Gloucester (later Richard III) compares his deformed body to ‘an unlick'd bear-whelp That carries no impression like the dam’. Since then other versions including to knock and whip someone into shape have come into use, possibly reflecting the former popularity of corporal punishment as a parenting tool.

Words that rhyme with shape

agape, ape, cape, chape, crape, crêpe, drape, escape, gape, grape, jape, misshape, nape, rape, scrape, tape

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: shape

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There are 2 main definitions of shape in English:

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Pronunciation: /SHāp/


Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: SHAPE

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