1the external form or appearance characteristic of someone or something; the outline of an area or figure:she liked the shape of his nosehouseplants come in all shapes and sizeschest freezers are square or rectangular in shape
a person or thing that is difficult to see and identify clearly:he saw a shape through the mist
a specific form or guise assumed by someone or something:a fiend in human shape
a piece of material, paper, etc., made or cut in a particular form:stick paper shapes on for the puppet’s eyes and nose
2 [with adjective] the particular condition or state of someone or something:he was in no shape to drivethe building was in poor shape
the distinctive nature or qualities of something:the future shape and direction of the country
definite or orderly arrangement:check that your structure will give shape to your essay
give a particular shape or form to:most caves are shaped by the flow of water through limestoneshape the dough into two-inch balls
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
determine the nature of; have a great influence on:his childhood was shaped by a loving relationship with his elder brother
[no object] develop in a particular way; progress:the yacht was shaping well in trials
form or produce (a sound or words).
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
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
in (good) shape
in good physical condition.
in the shape of
represented or embodied by:retribution arrived in the shape of my irate father
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
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
2(of a person) in poor physical condition; unfit.
the shape of things to come
the way the future is likely to develop.
[the title of a novel by H. G. Wells (1933)]
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.
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
develop or happen in a particular way:it was shaping up to be another bleak year
informal improve performance or behavior:we have never been afraid to tell our children to shape up
become physically fit:I need to shape up
[usually in combination]:egg-shapedX-shaped
Old Englishgesceap 'external form', also 'creation', sceppan 'create', of Germanic origin