Main definitions of shape in English

: shape1SHAPE2



  • 1The external form, contours, or outline of someone or something.

    ‘she liked the shape of his nose’
    ‘houseplants come in all shapes and sizes’
    mass noun ‘the stones are irregular in shape’
    • ‘Try using a garden hose, or sprinkle limestone, to outline the shape of a new bed.’
    • ‘For this he reconstructed a Neolithic forest whose outline forms the shape of an endangered falcon.’
    • ‘The shapes, crisp outlines and clear, near-obsessive glyphs are quite exquisite.’
    • ‘The pattern is programmed to stitch an outline around the shape to hold it in place while the edge is stitched.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Safes designed for home use come in a variety of shapes, sizes and designs, and there's sure to be one out there that's perfect for your needs.’
    • ‘They started putting masking tape on the floor to outline the shapes of machines.’
    • ‘Layered shapes, outlined in black, burgundy or pink, imitate the forms of architecture and industrial design.’
    • ‘Once you have outlined the shape of the rose bed, it's time to improve the soil - before planting the roses.’
    • ‘Suppose that one of Vermeer's main uses for the camera obscura was to obtain precise outlines for the various shapes in a composition.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘They cut out the portion where the sod would grow and outlined the shape with bender-board.’
    • ‘Use a black marker to outline the shape and to write scientific or mathematical equations on the bag.’
    • ‘His dark blond hair was cut very short and outlined the shape of his head neatly.’
    • ‘Outline the desired shape of your pond with a garden hose or a rope.’
    • ‘The normal, healthy shape of the spine is a very gentle S-curve.’
    • ‘Families come in all kinds of shapes and sizes and configurations.’
    • ‘My finger traces along the seven stars, outlining the shape of a ladle.’
    • ‘Disturbing images of police tape outlining the shape of Evangeline's lifeless body flashed before his eyes.’
    • ‘This will create a clean lined look that will contour your body shape.’
    form, appearance, configuration, formation, structure
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A person or thing that is difficult to see and identify clearly.
      ‘he saw a shape through the mist’
      • ‘Jim was desperately trying to make sense of the golden blur before him, trying to force the formless shapes to solidify, to identify themselves.’
      • ‘I am not in the habit of following strange shapes in the mist about eerie woods.’
      • ‘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 mist became separate shapes, moving shapes, coloured shapes.’
      • ‘Peering though the roiling mist, Andrew could see back-lit shapes moving within.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘In the absence of the lamps, Tesha was unable to identify the shape until it righted itself and stood straight.’
      • ‘Their shape could not be clearly defined as their outline seemed blurred in a haze of grey smoke surrounding them, but they seemed human shaped.’
      • ‘At the edge of the woods, a few birds had started to call out and flutter between the trees, vague shapes moving through the mist beyond the half-open bathroom window.’
      • ‘Their shapes were not clearly distinguishable, as they were covered by some kind of insubstantial black flame.’
      • ‘He was hunting for greens when he became aware of the dark shape outlined against the shifting, luminous background.’
      • ‘Throughout the painting are less clearly defined shapes and stabs of the loaded brush.’
      • ‘They looked up and saw a huge shape outlined by sunlight; it came over.’
      • ‘Ada peered through the frosted glass of the front entrance, but was not able to identify anything other than some fuzzy grey shapes moving around the front yard.’
      • ‘All she could see was a light purple mist that clouded anything beyond into indiscernible shapes.’
      • ‘The field was denser than the War Six field, but the obstacles were more visible and their shapes were easier to identify.’
      • ‘As he neared the hill the shapes took outlines of men instead of the formless gray lumps they'd appeared as.’
      • ‘Eldon looked at the radar screen and saw three shapes identified as Coalition frigates.’
      • ‘Through the dark mist, I could make out the faint shape of a large cat.’
      • ‘The ground seemed lumpy and careful observations revealed the outline of a massive shape.’
    2. 1.2 A specific form or guise assumed by someone or something.
      ‘a fiend in human shape’
      • ‘In these stories, beasts frighten or trick their enemies, sometimes by taking on the shapes of human beings.’
      • ‘Each pair took position before a carrier as the mighty ships themselves assumed a wedge shape.’
      • ‘From this intriguing postulation onward, the film slowly and hesitantly assumes the shape of a thriller.’
      • ‘Clouds excite him partly because they perpetually assume new shapes.’
      • ‘As water froths into to foam and spray in small rapids, so I shifted into my feline shape and ghosted toward and, with some difficulty, through a window.’
      • ‘Dr. Bob works in cypress, training trees over many years to grow in specific shapes.’
      • ‘Collectively titled ‘Airships,’ all of the sculptures assume the general shape of a dirigible.’
      • ‘Raven merely hopped down from Callan's shoulder and changed back into his human shape, hauling a hood over his straggling hair, which was soaked through.’
      • ‘For Brian was only going halfway towards bat form, then lingering in a strange, supernatural limbo before condensing back into his human shape instead of making the change over.’
      • ‘Kevin was in his wolf shape but changed to human when he saw her.’
      • ‘The cloud assumes a human shape, and begins to solidify.’
      • ‘She'd regained her human shape when she lost consciousness.’
      • ‘Sara is a metamorph, able to assume a winged shape.’
      • ‘Animals were visitors from the other world temporarily assuming animal shapes.’
      • ‘In the first three decades of the twentieth century the discipline of economics assumed its present shape.’
      • ‘Phil (played by Stefaniuk) is the alien who lands in the woods of Canada and morphs himself into a human shape, full lumberjack gear and all.’
      • ‘Were they a more human form of a being that could assume the shape of any creature on Earth?’
      • ‘He is always accompanied by a toad and he can assume the shape of a toad.’
      • ‘He eventually destroys Paradise by assuming the shape of a serpent and tricking Eve into eating from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge.’
      • ‘She claimed that she was under attack by invisible tormentors who pinched her, pricked her with pins, and spoke of women who assumed the shape of cats.’
      guise, likeness, semblance, form, appearance, image, aspect
      View synonyms
  • 2A geometric figure such as a square, triangle, or rectangle.

    • ‘Bold, geometric shapes, abstracts, squares and sharp angles are all appropriate.’
    • ‘Just to the right of the slits are a group of square shapes.’
    • ‘Stripes, geometric shapes and patterns add whimsy to ordinary rocking chairs.’
    • ‘Shape stencil: select unusual shapes like circles and stars - squares and rectangles are easily produced using a ruler.’
    • ‘Some characters looked like geometric shapes, such as triangles.’
    • ‘It is rare to see objects against a background of a square, a triangle, and oval shapes.’
    • ‘Because Islam forbids the portrayal of people and animals, most Arab designs feature plants, leaves, or geometric shapes.’
    • ‘On this magnificent necklace, worn by either a young woman or man, the beadworker has skillfully played with colors and geometric shapes.’
    • ‘By the 1760s they had acquired lids and the oval gave way to square, octagonal, and hexagonal shapes as the century progressed.’
    • ‘In others, repeated square shapes mutate into stretched diamonds, triangles and irregular ovals.’
    • ‘He observed that ideas of shapes or figures, like the triangle, were ideas of things he had not invented or conjured up.’
    • ‘What you have then is a geometric shape with only one side, and only one edge.’
    • ‘Some were organic shapes with lines, and others were geometric shapes surrounded by circles.’
    • ‘Characteristically he used patterns of interlinked shapes - strongly outlined but avoiding geometrical regularity.’
    • ‘They angled the party wall to form trapezoidal shapes and adapted the motion to create lively and clearly defined spaces in the units.’
    • ‘Some conical houses bear patterning composed principally of chevrons, others of triangular shapes.’
    • ‘If, however, one starts from the taro itself rather than from the geometric shape, the picture becomes more complicated.’
    • ‘Grouping wall decor in geometric shapes such as rectangles, triangles or circles adds interest.’
    • ‘Try starting simple, with maybe just a geometric shape, such as a triangle or circle.’
    • ‘When they sit down for dinner, all the food is cut into specific geometric shapes and mathematical figures.’
    1. 2.1 A piece of material, paper, etc., made or cut in a particular form.
      ‘stick paper shapes on for the puppet's eyes and nose’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Then separate shapes are made by actually cutting the mesh into shapes and casting the paper straight into shapes on the J cloth.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Cut a bunny shape from white paper in a size that will fit over the pop-up piece; fold in half.’
      • ‘For each shape, glue two papers together to hide the plain side.’
  • 3mass noun The correct or original form or contours of something.

    ‘her skirt had lost its shape long ago’
    ‘the lid had been battered out of shape’
    • ‘As one, they bowed low to her as her form lost shape and soon disappeared altogether.’
    • ‘The disadvantages of the technique are that, while some characteristics are quite stable, others, such as leaf shape, can vary markedly even on one vine.’
    • ‘I stepped into a pair of slippers that were supposed to look like wolves, but had sort of lost any shape about a year ago.’
    • ‘Bend the mesh into shape and arrange it over transplants such as tomatoes and cucumbers.’
    • ‘Cheap brushes are a huge headache mainly because they shed hair and lose their shape quicker than quality brushes.’
    1. 3.1 Definite or orderly arrangement.
      ‘check that your structure will give shape to your essay’
      • ‘Marx strove, better than most, to give shape to the astonishing development he saw around him.’
      • ‘Choral movements give shape to the nation, but not merely as a matter of representing the nation.’
      • ‘Fredrickson plays his instrument as a cello, with the ability to give shape to music in which shape isn't always easy to discern.’
      • ‘The views they articulated sought to give shape to the burgeoning social consciousness in France and apply it to the army.’
      • ‘The okomfo, however, will throw out clues to onlookers so as to differentiate and give shape to each obosom.’
      • ‘China had not developed to the stage when strong and competing social interests would give shape to politics.’
      • ‘It has thus fallen to federal courts to give shape to the statute.’
      • ‘Explanations are not this film's concern - it strives instead to give shape to our incomprehension.’
      • ‘These provide clues of what to expect and give shape to the analysis of the subscription lists.’
      • ‘Paterson's love commands that we look deep into the objects that give shape to things: shadow, mirror, glass.’
      • ‘The Protoacademy takes a more definite shape periodically through a series of events in different cities throughout Europe, including this one in Cork.’
      • ‘Your mind will give shape to the things you need to fight.’
      • ‘It is in our interest to participate fully in the ongoing conversations and debates that give shape to art history as a discipline and keep it interesting.’
      • ‘The asymmetrical triangles of water and dune give shape to the engulfing sand and sky.’
      • ‘And Guggisberg insists that all national history must contain an element of exceptionalism to give shape to national identity.’
      • ‘These songs give shape to the shadows that darken our doors.’
      • ‘The broader political themes developed in Nineteen Seventy Four that live on in and give shape to Peace's subsequent novels are more particular to him.’
      • ‘These give shape to the impressions of other travel writers on India such as William Dalrymple, from whom Johnson takes his first cues.’
      • ‘One would presume these traditions are at least a few centuries old before they take definite shape in Early Modern accounts.’
      • ‘Yet individuals do not have to be rich or famous for their passions to give shape to a community.’
  • 4mass noun, with adjective The specified condition or state of someone or something.

    ‘he was in no shape to drive’
    ‘the company came through a difficult period in excellent financial shape’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Speaking of health, in what kind of shape is public health care?’
    • ‘See, I was never very athletic before that, so I thought it would be awesome to do something like that, and get back into that physical shape.’
    • ‘He was not in good physical shape and tended to be rather the worse for wear after lunch.’
    • ‘Sociology is supposed to show that physics is just a social construction, as if the social ‘sciences’ were in better shape than physics.’
    • ‘I'll take an older print with character any day over needlessly edge-enhanced modern prints, but the fact is that this print is in poor shape.’
    • ‘Were we in better financial shape when he left than when we started?’
    • ‘Years of horseback riding and ice-skating have kept him in good physical shape - and he remains active.’
    • ‘The doctors also emphasized that my physical shape and cardiovascular conditioning were paramount in my survival as well as my rapid recovery.’
    • ‘Another advantage though was that it brought her into perfect physical shape, which boosted her self-confidence.’
    • ‘The claycrete blocks of the building's exterior were weather worn and crumbling in places, and the solar panels atop the roof were in poor shape.’
    • ‘With those kinds of income gains, consumers will be in excellent shape to face the financial challenges that 2005 will bring.’
    • ‘He was in very good physical shape, for he'd often spent time in any gym he could manage to visit, whenever he wasn't flying and could find the time.’
    • ‘Renny was still in sore shape from the gunshot wounds and broken ribs, but he was now out of danger.’
    • ‘By dawn he was in bad shape - paralyzed from his injuries.’
    • ‘The island's defences were in poor shape to meet such a danger.’
    • ‘I urge you to get your financial house in good shape.’
    • ‘He worried about keeping in good physical shape for appearance as well as health reasons.’
    • ‘Carter has a client that is looking to buy a club that is in bad shape physically and financially.’
    condition, state, health, state of health, trim, fettle, order, repair
    View synonyms
    1. 4.1 Good physical condition.
      ‘she has to work hard to keep in shape’
      ‘I trained with the featherweight champion of Europe to get in shape’
      • ‘Reality 2: You don't have to be in perfect shape to make a fitness video.’
      • ‘That's been a goal of mine for a long time, and I've never felt healthier or in better shape.’
      • ‘He had worked hard to get in shape, and he was in really good shape, and he just had some episodes that things weren't quite right.’
      • ‘He kept in tremendous shape and ate healthier than the diet-crazed Americans he read about.’
      • ‘I don't know if he's naturally that able-bodied or if he uses a health-restorative spell, but he is in excellent shape for his years.’
      • ‘As a result, she got herself into shape physically, becoming a kind of Mediterranean Marilyn Monroe.’
      • ‘The last time he had been here he had had his physical done to see if he was in good enough shape to even take the military training unit test.’
      • ‘She did a full physical and decided that I was in tip top shape, but I needed to build my wing muscles now if I planned on flying with them later.’
      condition, state, health, state of health, trim, fettle, order, repair
      View synonyms
    2. 4.2 The distinctive nature or qualities of something.
      ‘debates about the future shape of British society’
      • ‘Orwell's theoretical concerns about the likely shape of the future could be considered a form of political satire.’
      • ‘The shape of future health-care legislation is yet to be seen.’
      • ‘The shape of this paper can be summarised as follows.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Our new understanding will lead us to new tools, which will ‘change the nature and shape of firms.’’


[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’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘To guide his hand as it shapes the Styrofoam, he projects composite image-and-text designs onto the panel.’
    • ‘Divide the dough into 15 pieces, shaping these into balls.’
    • ‘Carefully trimming, shaving and shaping one's facial hair can achieve a never-ending multitude of looks, such as handlebar moustaches, goatees and designer sideburns.’
    • ‘The walls were scrubbed to perfection as well, and the glass-less window frames had been shaped by an expert hand.’
    • ‘The Ankh cross is designed to be shaped like a ‘T’ with the circular symbol of the sun resting on top of it.’
    • ‘Seated around a mass of black stone, a group of young Muslim men are shaping a Farohar - a winged angel from another time, and faith, than their own.’
    • ‘Samsung, one of Asia's leaders in design, shaped its Compact Mobile Phone concept like a woman's compact.’
    • ‘The House of Prayer is shaped like a squarish oval.’
    • ‘There are signposted vantage points on the way which give splendid views showing how the Ice Ages carved and shaped the landscape.’
    • ‘The exposed skull lying in the ‘dead red bracken’ has been shaped by nature.’
    • ‘The earrings had been masterfully shaped into three ivy vines that wove around each other.’
    • ‘Cevapcici are made from ground meat and spices that are shaped into little cylinders, cooked on an open fire and served on an open platter.’
    • ‘Her slow glide along the coralline ridge reveals that she is slightly larger than a silver dollar, and nearly as thin, her smoothly arching dorsal fin shaping her more ovate than round.’
    • ‘I would really encourage you to spend the next couple of years shaping and defining the product or the service.’
    • ‘Each flavor contains one of Denali's proprietary inclusions such as the Bear Foot Cookie Dough, which is shaped like a bear's foot.’
    • ‘They have stolen some of the disposables' design ideas, are shaped like pants rather than towels and have discovered Velcro.’
    • ‘Casting is a process by which a liquid or molten material is shaped by pouring into a mould that contains the negative impression of a desired model.’
    • ‘It was shaped like a block, and looked so sloppily put together, with no specific design to speak of.’
    • ‘This is the same type of volcanic rock shaped by sculptors in the Stone Symposium held on New Plymouth's foreshore each summer.’
    form, fashion, make, create, mould, model, cast, frame, sculpt, sculpture, block
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Form or produce (a sound or words)
      ‘her lips shaped barely audible words’
      • ‘The words were pressed from vocal cords unused to them, shaped by lips that were more inclined to some other form of speech.’
      • ‘The assassin's eyes widened at hearing the way she shaped her words, then he studied her face intently.’
      • ‘Whatever he found he brought to the slate of language, lovingly, deliberately shaping the words to describe what he had found.’
      • ‘The only way someone would be able to tell it wasn't a full-grown woman by her voice, was by the way she shaped her words.’
      • ‘The man opened his mouth shaping the words that would meet the master's ear.’
      • ‘Her mouth moved, shaping the words she will say to him once her spell is lifted.’
      • ‘Much of the new popular poetry is never written down; it exists only as sounds shaped in the air.’
      • ‘He cried, his mouth barely able to shape the words to her name, much less find the words that he needed to bring her away from the edge.’
      • ‘She shaped the words, unable to speak them with the knot of his noose twisting into her voicebox.’
      • ‘River sighed, and lifted his hands to shape the words.’
      • ‘Lips shaped silent words and their faces were upturned towards the stone woman.’
      • ‘Violet, however, was genuinely deep in thought, her lips shaping the words as she puzzled out the riddle.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Nothing is left to chance, each sound shaped so that it blends into the next, however odd a pairing they would normally make.’
      • ‘His lips shape the words I love you, no longer giving them voice beyond a whisper, but she can feel his breath against her skin.’
      • ‘He ad-libs and shapes the words through constant takes before the mic, getting every last line right.’
    2. 1.2 Make (something) fit the form of something else.
      with object and infinitive ‘suits have been shaped to fit so snugly that no curve is undefined’
      • ‘Autumn, or Bacchus's Trickery of Erigone is one of a pair of oddly shaped canvases, perhaps meant to fit into rococo mouldings, which celebrate Spring and Autumn.’
      • ‘Every block was shaped to fit just so, leaving little more than a paper-thin gap in between.’
      • ‘The locket itself was oval shaped and intricately carved with the image of a nightingale perched on a vine of Moonflower.’
      • ‘This spectacular hairstyle combines a sleek crown with a neatly tucked side swept front and a tightly sculpted fan shaped chignon.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Blandin planes used a T - shaped cast iron lever to adjust the depth of cut by rising or lowering the leading edge of the cutter.’
      • ‘The early morning sun filtered through breaks in the canopy, casting strangely shaped shadows over the ground.’
      form, fashion, make, create, mould, model, cast, frame, sculpt, sculpture, block
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3 Determine the nature of; have a great influence on.
      ‘his childhood was shaped by a loving relationship with his elder brother’
      • ‘As the title suggests, this is a book shaped primarily by an interrogative stance.’
      • ‘We can go further than that and suggest that an actor's roles may have the same kind of effect, that cultural identity and national myths may be shaped by influential performers.’
      • ‘The history of the larger world is always shaping and influencing what his characters feel and do.’
      • ‘Canadian Baptists, however, know we are not American, even though we have been shaped by the pervasive influence of American culture.’
      • ‘As the leader of the majority party in the House, the Speaker also plays a major role in shaping and implementing party decisions on forthcoming legislation.’
      • ‘Just how much is predetermined by the forces of genes and how much is shaped by influences such as society and culture remain unclear - and hotly debated.’
      • ‘Sadly, too many players have ignored the rich chess tapestry that has shaped and colored the rules, strategies and openings that we take for granted today.’
      • ‘He also played a big role in shaping how America handles its money.’
      • ‘He never lets his characters off the hook, no matter how much their characters have been shaped and determined by their upbringing.’
      • ‘It was evident that this now feeble woman was once influential and helped shape her past.’
      • ‘But as you know, no television program gets put on or shaped or determined by just one person, never.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘And thus it was that the career of a great Indian batsman was influenced and shaped by the example of a great Pakistani batsman.’
      • ‘Frontiers have come in all shapes and historical moments, and childhood has always been shaped by a bramble of racial and ethnic diversity.’
      • ‘In the context of the Cold War and the ascendancy of the coalition parties in federal politics, these historians emphasised the role played by the labour movement in shaping Australian national life.’
      • ‘There seems to be little doubt that these twin foci have been influential in shaping how supervisors think about supervision.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Other beings have independent desires that are shaped and influenced by all manner of things from peer pressure to economics to physics to biology.’
      • ‘As we shape the economy and the resultant income distribution we are also shaping the very nature of our democracy.’
      • ‘The urban laboring man's realistic view of what was possible was shaped by the nature of eighteenth-century America.’
      determine, create, produce, form, fashion, mould, define, develop, build, construct
      View synonyms
  • 2no object (of a sports player or athlete) take up a stance or set oneself to perform a particular action.

    with infinitive ‘I had plenty of time and shaped to kick to the near touchline’


  • in any shape or form (or in any way, shape, or form)

    • In any manner or under any circumstances.

      ‘96 per cent of the electorate voted against Europeanization in any shape or form’
      • ‘This file cannot be reproduced and/or retransmitted in any way, shape, or form (including but not limited to physical, natural, or electronic).’
      • ‘I am nothing like Dave in any way, shape, or form!’
      • ‘I guess; it doesn't seem like we've injured it in any way, shape, or form so far.’
      • ‘Please, I do not want to harm you in any way, shape, or form.’
      • ‘We were not involved in the investigation in any way, shape, or form.’
      • ‘I really hadn't expected her to think of this as a good thing, in any way, shape, or form.’
      • ‘‘They didn't want a giving circle in any way, shape, or form,’ says St. John.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Her family, however, were under the belief that was held by most of Warrington: that the castle on the hill was haunted, evil and definitely nothing to explore in any way, shape, or form.’
  • in the shape of

    • 1Represented or embodied by.

      ‘retribution arrived in the shape of my irate father’
      • ‘The parting with Victoria was painful, even though an irresistible competitor in the shape of Albert had arrived.’
      • ‘Conflict resolution comes in the shape of complete and utter victory for the normally publicity-shy Corkman.’
      • ‘But further reasons did come, in the shape of Pakistan's May-end testing of missiles.’
      • ‘Track five stays with the same musical, in the shape of Times Square from Three Dance Episodes.’
      • ‘But as a rule these assets exist in the shape of things or rights and not in the shape of money.’
      • ‘Stealing a march on everybody are the South Africans, in the shape of rugged goat farmer and winemaker Charles Black.’
      • ‘The modern world intruded only once, in the shape of a large computer monitor on which we witnessed some images - but that's about all.’
      • ‘The second half comes in the shape of three local weirdos with a video camera.’
      • ‘In such a case that imaginative faculty, formed as if in the shape of some animal, may appear to the senses of others.’
      • ‘The turning point arrived in the shape of a small, solid female a bit wider than she was tall.’
      1. 1.1By way of; in the nature of.
        ‘there had been little or nothing in the shape of academic planning’
        • ‘It is the past in the shape of linguistically transmitted tradition which determines our pre-understanding.’
  • lick (or knock or whip) someone/something into shape

    • Act forcefully to bring someone or something into a fitter, more efficient, or better-organized state.

      ‘the bank were eager to whip the company into shape for eventual sale’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He asked me for help with knocking his portfolio into shape, in order to pull up the weeds, cut his management charges and boost his returns.’
      • ‘He was one of a handful of guest directors Mr. Kent brought in over the course of the school year to whip us into shape.’
      • ‘There is less of a crowd for August but they soon whip the assembled mass 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.’
      • ‘I'm just curious about whether he has whipped the office into shape yet.’
      • ‘He told the Guardian later: ‘We are knocking the system into shape so that we can set up powerful departments similar to those in Scotland.’’
      • ‘Basically the producers got together some borderline ‘celebrities’ and teamed them up with professional ballroom dancers who then had to whip them into shape.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘There's no five minute or 10 minute secret workout that can whip you into shape.’
  • the shape of things to come

    • The way the future is likely to develop.

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘This is a salutary example of the shape of things to come.’
      • ‘It would be naïve, however, not to consider the fact that the information society is still an exclusive one, and how the information science and technology community addresses that fact will certainly affect the shape of things to come.’
      • ‘For those of you living off-campus already, enjoy a stroll down memory lane; for the residents, beware of the shape of things to come.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The liberal creed of cosmopolitanism, free trade, and peace promised to define the shape of things to come.’
      • ‘He predicted no end to the poetic image, for the central aim of poetry is to insinuate the shape of things to come, and that is a perpetual process.’
      • ‘He entertains a circle of similarly-situated friends with dinner parties where he regales them with his theories on free love, the inevitability of socialism, and the shape of things to come.’
      • ‘So we can't help but wonder if this is the shape of things to come for some time: both companies' top-end products are evenly matched, and neither clearly towers over the other as a clear performance leader.’
  • shape up or ship out

    • informal Used as an ultimatum to someone to improve their performance or behaviour or face being made to leave.

      • ‘A terse order has asked the overweight policemen to either shape up or ship out of the job.’
      • ‘‘Nah,’ interrupted another, ‘I heard that he's very strict and that he's going to make this school shape up or ship out.‘’
      • ‘He said yesterday that if teachers do not pay more attention to their chosen career they should shape up or ship out.’
      • ‘Like teenagers, we can stomp our foot and demand the run of the house, but unless we pay the bills we can be told to 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.’
      • ‘Henry is taking the long-term view and it may actually be a warning to the four wingers in the party that they may have to shape up or ship out.’
      • ‘The gist of what they told us was this: shape up or ship out.’
      • ‘A lot may be expected of Button, who needs to shape up or ship out, but the debutants should be gifted a bit more breathing space.’
      • ‘However, I think that after five years of this you should take a stronger stance and tell him to shape up or ship out.’
      • ‘Pot-bellied police officers in the Philippines have been set their own challenge - 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’
      • ‘The party, now in its 12th year, helped residents build a sense of community back when the development was just taking shape.’
      • ‘As we closed in on the far shore, a small town began to take shape.’
      • ‘The outlines of another strategy also began to take shape.’
      • ‘Alongside the secular model of marriage, an ecclesiastical model is beginning to take shape and definition.’
      • ‘While compositions on their previous effort had time to develop and take shape, here they are set to impact at once.’
      • ‘Globally, ambitious efforts to develop wind power are beginning to take shape.’
      • ‘The question that remains, however, is what alternative narrative takes shape where the developmental trajectory of the narrative of self-making leaves off.’
      • ‘A reversal of that conventional wisdom began taking shape in the early nineties, following the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska's Prince William Sound.’
      • ‘Elation replaced doubt when the schemes began to take shape.’
      • ‘Here's a look at some of the other developments taking shape around town.’
      become clear, become definite, become tangible, crystallize, gel, come together, fall into place
      View synonyms
  • throw shapes

    • informal Dance to popular music.

      ‘I watched as other clubbers threw shapes on the dance floor’
      ‘yours truly attempted to throw some shapes to long forgotten tunes from the 1970s’
      • ‘Even passers-by stopped to watch the women as they happily threw shapes for the camera on Kildare Street.’
      • ‘While her backing dancers threw shapes which would have caused blushes at the Moulin Rouge, she bounced through her back catalogue of bubblegum music.’
      • ‘It wasn't till a month later that I realised I'd been throwing shapes to a cover of 'Anyone of Us'.’
      • ‘She's bellowing her way through 'Singing In The Rain', throwing shapes she's perfected from her own choreography.’
      • ‘I've been known to throw some shapes to this from time to time.’
      • ‘Some young children joined the fun, imitating Liam's athleticism as he threw shapes and belted out popular numbers such as "You can love me now".’
      • ‘His movements are stiff and robotic, like those Bauhaus artist ballets where middle-class guys who don't know how to dance throw shapes in absurd costumes.’
      • ‘I ran into O'Dwyer, who, it has to be said, threw some pretty impressive shapes on the dancefloor.’
      • ‘He dramatically vaults the barricades, gyrates his hips and begins throwing shapes.’
      • ‘Throwing some shapes on the dance floor was the princess, with her sister in tow.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • shape up

    • 1Develop or progress in a particular way.

      ‘I wanted to see how things had been shaping up in my absence’
      ‘it was shaping up to be another bleak year’
      • ‘Yes, this trip was finally shaping up after all.’
      • ‘Once thought to be a black-sand gulag, the Pacific coast is now shaping up as Latin America's last surfing frontier.’
      • ‘This is shaping up to be one of our best seasons ever.’
      • ‘I still felt cold as I entered the water, but I nevertheless enjoyed an hour of floundering around in the surf and with the December sun gradually rising higher in the sky it was shaping up to be a fine day.’
      • ‘And as someone who likes to have their party plans figured out more than a day in advance, let's look at the parties that are shaping up to be the most popular this year.’
      • ‘So far, May is shaping up like this for Jacksonville Economic Development Commission meetings.’
      • ‘Certainly shaping up to be a must-see is Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of Shakespeare's ‘Love's Labours Lost,’ made into a musical entertainment.’
      • ‘Her partnership was shaping up nicely along with her plan.’
      • ‘So, it'll be interesting to see how, in fact, a trial shapes up.’
      • ‘Dropping our cynical snide act, it is shaping up beautifully.’
      • ‘A series of interesting competitions are shaping up in the performance categories.’
      • ‘Now, Brett and Therese, of Asby, Cumbria, are shaping up to look and act like the real thing, with Therese aiming to be a volunteer on a National Trust farm.’
      • ‘It is actually shaping up to be a fine purveyor of Caribbean and world music.’
      • ‘And is it shaping up to be another summer of love?’
      • ‘Plus, it's shaping up to be a hot summer at the movies.’
      • ‘Software could shape up as the next big advertising medium as developers look for new ways to make money.’
      • ‘It is shaping up to be a good game for your little ones.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It's shaping up to be a very literary winter season on our local stages, featuring prose works adapted to the stage and a prose writer writing for the stage, as well as work by some of the finest contemporary playwrights from here and abroad.’
      • ‘‘No one is calling it a free vote, but it's certainly shaping up that way,’ Gallagher says.’
      • ‘Well, it's shaping up to be a great summer for rock shows.’
      improve, show improvement, get better, make headway, make progress, progress, show promise
      View synonyms
      1. 1.1Become physically fit.
        ‘she was looking for a way to shape up after the birth of her second son’
        • ‘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.’
        get fit, get into shape, tone up
        View synonyms
      2. 1.2informal Improve one's behaviour or performance to the required standard.
        ‘the manager has ordered his goal-shy strike force to shape up’
        • ‘Now you either shape up and act like a mature young woman or you can get on a plane right now and we'll send you home!’
        • ‘Go ahead and require them to shape up or start learning to train their Polish replacements.’


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




Main definitions of shape in English

: shape1SHAPE2



  • Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe.