\ 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 In principle, at least, democracy allows us — collectively — to shape our own fate. E.j. Dionne Jr., Washington Post, 23 Sep. 2022 Characters here are reduced to cliché stereotypes, a fact all the more ironic given that Lathan’s film is quick to use such stereotypes to shape the heart of its story. Sarah-tai Black, Los Angeles Times, 22 Sep. 2022 The letter also likened the censorship of difficult or uncomfortable topics to book banning and warned against allowing a vocal minority to shape the board’s decisions. Alison Cross, Hartford Courant, 21 Sep. 2022 Portraits by Deana Lawson and Shizuka Yokomizo, in which the subjects are willing participants who make choices about the ways in which they are documented, grapple with the power of the photograph to shape perceptions of others. Lori Waxman, Chicago Tribune, 20 Sep. 2022 Meghan King doesn't want her romantic relationships to shape how people see her. Tommy Mcardle, Peoplemag, 20 Sep. 2022 All are stops on the Indigenous Milwaukee tour that will show what came before the city now known as Milwaukee, and how Native Americans continue to shape the city and its future. Ashley Luthern, Journal Sentinel, 20 Sep. 2022 What should our leaders and the press do to shape public opinion? Jessica Radloff, Glamour, 18 Sep. 2022 Whether for work or play, the importance of the PC has only become more apparent as the torrid pace of technological development continues to shape the world. Matthew Humphries, PCMAG, 16 Sep. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Fresh pasta takes between 1 and 3 minutes, Stefanelli said, whereas dry pasta can take as long as 15 minutes (or more) depending on the size and shape. Aaron Hutcherson, Washington Post, 23 Sep. 2022 The federal government gathers census data to make decisions about things like the size and shape of congressional districts, or how to disburse funding. Abraham D. Flaxman, Scientific American, 21 Sep. 2022 El Khoudary and others say that doctors should also start looking beyond standard lipid panels for more details about a person’s cholesterol, including particles’ size, shape, and composition. Time, 21 Sep. 2022 Each textured bun had a slightly different size and shape to it. Gabi Thorne, Allure, 16 Sep. 2022 The precise size and shape of organs, the presence of scar tissue, and the placement of nerves or blood vessels often differ from person to person. James Gaines, Smithsonian Magazine, 15 Sep. 2022 But the granules must meet certain criteria for size, shape and hardness — or crush resistance. Brian Maffly, The Salt Lake Tribune, 1 Sep. 2022 Measure, Cut, and Prepare Pegboard Check the exact size and shape of the pegboard and compare it to the target mounting location. Timothy Dale, Better Homes & Gardens, 31 Aug. 2022 These feelers help dogs in sensing the size, shape and speed of objects near them based on the movement of air currents, explains the American Kennel Club. Mythili Devarakonda, USA TODAY, 27 Aug. 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

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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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Last Updated

25 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Shape.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Oct. 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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