Is it ensure, insure, or assure?


[ih-lips] /ɪˈlɪps/
noun, Geometry
a plane curve such that the sums of the distances of each point in its periphery from two fixed points, the foci, are equal. It is a conic section formed by the intersection of a right circular cone by a plane that cuts the axis and the surface of the cone. Typical equation: (x 2 / a 2) + (y 2 / b 2) = 1. If a = b the ellipse is a circle.
1745-55; < French < Latin ellīpsis ellipsis; or by back formation from the plural ellipses


[ih-lip-sis] /ɪˈlɪp sɪs/
noun, plural ellipses
[ih-lip-seez] /ɪˈlɪp siz/ (Show IPA)
  1. the omission from a sentence or other construction of one or more words that would complete or clarify the construction, as the omission of who are, while I am, or while we are from I like to interview people sitting down.
  2. the omission of one or more items from a construction in order to avoid repeating the identical or equivalent items that are in a preceding or following construction, as the omission of been to Paris from the second clause of I've been to Paris, but they haven't.
Printing. a mark or marks as ——, …, or * * *, to indicate an omission or suppression of letters or words.
1560-70; < Latin ellīpsis < Greek élleipsis an omission, equivalent to el- (variant of en- en-2) + leip- (stem of leípein to leave) + -sis -sis Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for ellipses
  • Wolff's book is utterly specific, but it is full of ellipses that give it haunting power.
  • Undergraduates almost never use ellipses correctly in any essay they submit as part of a course requirement.
  • Distorting anyone's words via the use of ellipses is dishonest and betrays a shoddy application of editorial standards.
  • She sent back several sad but supportive texts, woven together with ellipses.
  • To her, such ellipses contained a world of social possibility which could not be overlooked.
  • When the sun is held stationary, these trajectories are viewed as nearly circular ellipses.
  • Her nails were perfect little half-ellipses, the cuticles neatly trimmed.
  • Smoother ellipses require more computational time and produce larger illustration files.
  • Newton's discovery was that for gravity the orbits of objects that cannot escape are either circles or ellipses.
British Dictionary definitions for ellipses


a closed conic section shaped like a flattened circle and formed by an inclined plane that does not cut the base of the cone. Standard equation x²/a² + y²/b² = 1, where 2a and 2b are the lengths of the major and minor axes. Area: πab
Word Origin
C18: back formation from ellipsis


noun (pl) -ses (-siːz)
Also called eclipsis. omission of parts of a word or sentence
(printing) a sequence of three dots (…) indicating an omission in text
Word Origin
C16: from Latin, from Greek elleipsis omission, from elleipein to leave out, from leipein to leave
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for ellipses



1753, from French ellipse (17c.), from Latin ellipsis "ellipse," also, "a falling short, deficit," from Greek elleipsis (see ellipsis). So called because the conic section of the cutting plane makes a smaller angle with the base than does the side of the cone, hence, a "falling short." First applied by Apollonius of Perga (3c. B.C.E.).



1560s, "an ellipse," from Latin ellipsis, from Greek elleipsis "a falling short, defect, ellipse," from elleipein "to fall short, leave out," from en- "in" + leipein "to leave" (see relinquish). Grammatical sense first recorded 1610s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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ellipses in Science
A closed, symmetric curve shaped like an oval, which can be formed by intersecting a cone with a plane that is not parallel or perpendicular to the cone's base. The sum of the distances of any point on an ellipse from two fixed points (called the foci) remains constant no matter where the point is on the curve.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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ellipses in Culture
ellipsis [(i-lip-sis)]

A punctuation mark (&ellipsis;) used most often within quotations to indicate that something has been left out. For example, if we leave out parts of the above definition, it can read: “A punctuation mark (&ellipsis;) used most often &ellipsis; to indicate&ellipsis4;”

ellipse [(i-lips)]

In geometry, a curve traced out by a point that is required to move so that the sum of its distances from two fixed points (called foci) remains constant. If the foci are identical with each other, the ellipse is a circle; if the two foci are distinct from each other, the ellipse looks like a squashed or elongated circle.

Note: The orbits of the planets and of many comets are ellipses.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Encyclopedia Article for ellipses


figure of speech characterized by the deliberate omission of a word or words that are, however, understood in light of the grammatical context. The device is exemplified in W.H. Auden's poem "This Lunar Beauty": But this was neverA ghost's endeavorNor finished this,Was ghost at ease;And till it passLove shall not nearThe sweetness hereNor sorrow takeHis endless look.

Learn more about ellipsis with a free trial on
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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