1 of 2


: a system of hiring workers and especially longshoremen by the day or shift by having applicants gather for each day's selection
also : an instance of such hiring practice

shape up

2 of 2


shaped up; shaping up; shapes up

intransitive verb

: to improve to a good or acceptable condition or standard of behavior
shaping up at the gym

transitive verb

: to bring to a good or acceptable condition or standard of behavior

Examples of shape-up in a Sentence

Verb told his son that if he didn't shape up, he'd be grounded for a month this group of summer interns is shaping up to be one of the best we've ever hired
Recent Examples on the Web
The pivotal election is shaping up to be one of the most fractured in Taiwan’s democratic history as an insurgent third candidate party challenges a traditionally two-party system. Vic Chiang, Washington Post, 28 Nov. 2023 The supporting categories are shaping up to be a mix of new and familiar faces. Emily Longeretta, Variety, 22 Nov. 2023 Rolling Loud California 2024 is shaping up to be a massive party! Daniela Avila, Peoplemag, 15 Nov. 2023 But 2024 is shaping up as a year that will determine whether and how to raise revenues for government services in San Diego and California. Michael Smolens, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5 Nov. 2023 National Association of Realtors data confirms that 2023 is shaping up to be the lowest year in terms of number of home sales since the housing bubble burst in 2008. Bysydney Lake, Fortune, 17 Oct. 2023 Two main factors are at play in driving temperatures to such extremes: their inexorable increase from burning fossil fuels and an El Niño event that is shaping up to be a strong one. Andrea Thompson, Scientific American, 4 Oct. 2023 The conversation has turned to the Oscars, a ceremony that’s shaping up as a sequel to that magical opening weekend. Glenn Whipp, Los Angeles Times, 17 Nov. 2023 Hopper’s gift card launch comes as the winter holiday season is shaping up to be busy and pricey — in fact, flights for Thanksgiving are expected to be about 12 percent more expensive than last year. Alison Fox, Travel + Leisure, 2 Nov. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'shape-up.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use


1940, in the meaning defined above


circa 1920, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of shape-up was circa 1920

Dictionary Entries Near shape-up

Cite this Entry

“Shape-up.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition

shape up

: to improve to a good condition or standard
shape up and start studying
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!