\ ˈshāp How to pronounce shape (audio) \
shaped; shaping

Definition of shape

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : form, create especially : to give a particular form or shape to
2 obsolete : ordain, decree
3 : to adapt in shape so as to fit neatly and closely a dress shaped to her figure
4a : devise, plan shape a policy
b : to embody in definite form shaping a folktale into an epic
5a : to make fit for (a particular use, purpose, etc.) : adapt shape the questions to fit the answers
b : to determine or direct the course or character of events that shaped history
c : to modify (behavior) by rewarding changes that tend toward a desired response

intransitive verb

1 : to come to pass : happen it's shaping up that I am known now for my husbands— Leslie Marmon Silko
2 : to take on or approach a mature or definite form often used with up the summer is shaping up to be one of the hottest on record


plural shapes

Definition of shape (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : the visible makeup characteristic of a particular item or kind of item a cake in the shape of a Christmas tree
b(1) : spatial form or contour the clouds kept changing shape
(2) : a standard or universally recognized spatial form a stain in the shape of a perfect circle
2 : the appearance of the body as distinguished from that of the face : figure
3a : phantom, apparition eerie shapes floating in the mist
b : assumed appearance : guise a trick-or-treater in the shape of a pumpkin
4 : form of embodiment The plan is starting to come into shape. — see also take shape
5 : a mode of existence or form of being having identifying features
6 : a molded dessert especially : blancmange
7 : the condition in which someone or something exists at a particular time the car was in fine shape
in shape
: in an original, normal, or fit condition exercises to keep in shape

Other Words from shape


shaper noun


shaped \ ˌshāpt How to pronounce shape (audio) \ adjective

Examples of shape in a Sentence

Verb The artist shaped the stone with a hammer and chisel. Schools shape the minds of future leaders. Ads help shape public opinion. Noun circles, squares, triangles, and other geometric shapes The cake has a rectangular shape. The pieces came in many different sizes and shapes. The pieces were sorted by size and shape. The cloud kept changing shape. The cake was rectangular in shape. I need to start exercising and get back in shape. I'm out of shape because I haven't been exercising. The players were in poor condition, but the coach quickly whipped them into shape. She stays in shape by exercising daily and eating well. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Other countries have used the pandemic to shape monumental plans for their audiovisual sectors. John Hopewell, Variety, 10 May 2022 Ever since World War II, Britain has held on to an idea of itself as the Greece to America’s Rome, guiding its imperial successor in the art of hegemony, giving it the ideas to shape the world. Tom Mctague, The Atlantic, 9 May 2022 Now 29, Zauha is on track to shape theme parks himself soon. Katie Rice, Orlando Sentinel, 6 May 2022 The interplay of these three forces—generational cohorts, historical events and life cycle moments—all work together to shape shopper mindsets. Dan Robbins, Forbes, 5 May 2022 The peaceful mountain scenery in California’s far northern reaches belies the powerful geothermal forces that created it — and continue to shape it today. Gregory Thomas, San Francisco Chronicle, 22 Apr. 2022 Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts believes the day is an important vehicle to raise awareness and to continue to shape attitudes in the sport and beyond. Greg Beacham, ajc, 16 Apr. 2022 The same groups — many now flush with financial resources — continue to shape the anti-LGBTQ agenda. NBC News, 23 Mar. 2022 His killing on February 26, 2012, was a hinge moment in American history, a turning point that inspired a decade of racial and political awakenings that continue to shape the nation's social and political landscape. Peniel E. Joseph, CNN, 26 Feb. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The lemony dish calls for orzo, a small type of pasta that’s similar to the size, shape and texture of rice. Bethany Thayer, Detroit Free Press, 14 May 2022 Roster-wise, the Wild are in decent shape, with a fair amount of good contracts around Kaprizov (47 goals, 108 points in the regular season). Matt Porter,, 14 May 2022 Named after the single-story abodes found primarily in ancient Rome and Pompeii, Domus sports a distinctive shape that results in an inordinate amount of real estate on board. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 14 May 2022 Water levels at the state’s two largest reservoirs are in bad shape heading into summer. Amy Hubbard, Los Angeles Times, 14 May 2022 Many homeless people take refuge in the station, some of them in visibly rough shape, yet outreach efforts have had little success connecting them to resources and services. Eric Lach, The New Yorker, 14 May 2022 Available at Sephora for only $24, this wax-gel hybrid works overtime to sculpt, shape, and hold all in one. Jasmine Washington, Seventeen, 13 May 2022 When machine washing a baseball cap, skip those cage-like protectors that promise to keep a hat's shape and instead wash the hat alongside like items, or on its own. Jolie Kerr, Better Homes & Gardens, 13 May 2022 With over 200 positive reviews on Amazon, Uppercut is a spray that will knock your hair right into shape. John Thompson, Men's Health, 13 May 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'shape.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of shape


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for shape


Middle English, from Old English sceapen, gescapen, past participle of scieppan; akin to Old High German skepfen to shape

Learn More About shape

Time Traveler for shape

Time Traveler

The first known use of shape was before the 12th century

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Dictionary Entries Near shape



shaped charge

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Statistics for shape

Last Updated

16 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Shape.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for shape


\ ˈshāp How to pronounce shape (audio) \
shaped; shaping

Kids Definition of shape

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to give a certain form or shape to Shape the dough into loaves.
2 : to plan out : devise We shaped a winning strategy.
3 : to have great influence on the development of Teachers help shape the minds of future leaders.
shape up
1 : to develop in a particular way This is shaping up to be an exciting trip.
2 : to improve in behavior or condition

Other Words from shape

shaper noun



Kids Definition of shape (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : outward appearance : the form or outline of something the shape of a pear circles, squares, and other shapes
2 : definite arrangement and form The plan is finally taking shape.
3 : condition entry 1 sense 1 The car is in poor shape.
4 : a physically fit condition She keeps in shape by exercising.

Other Words from shape

shaped \ ˌshāpt \ adjective a heart-shaped cookie


transitive verb
\ ˈshāp How to pronounce shape (audio) \
shaped; shaping

Medical Definition of shape

: to modify (behavior) by rewarding changes that tend toward a desired response

More from Merriam-Webster on shape

Nglish: Translation of shape for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of shape for Arabic Speakers


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