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[ih-lip-ti-kuh l] /ɪˈlɪp tɪ kəl/
adjective, Also, elliptic
pertaining to or having the form of an ellipse.
pertaining to or marked by grammatical ellipsis.
(of speech or writing) expressed with extreme or excessive economy; relieved of irrelevant matter:
to converse in elliptical sentences.
(of a style of speaking or writing) tending to be ambiguous, cryptic, or obscure:
an elliptical prose that is difficult to translate.
Astronomy, elliptical galaxy.
Origin of elliptical
1650-60; < Greek elleiptik(ós) defective (see ellipsis, -tic) + -al1
Related forms
ellipticalness, noun
nonelliptic, adjective
nonelliptical, adjective
nonelliptically, adverb
overelliptical, adjective
overelliptically, adverb
subelliptic, adjective
subelliptical, adjective
unelliptical, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for elliptical
  • Glossy, oval to elliptical leaves more add to my plant list.
  • And metastable isomers differ from normal atoms in having a nucleus which is football shaped or elliptical rather than round.
  • The head is oval or elliptical, but flattened, so that when viewed in profile it is pear-shaped.
  • Many of the other galaxies are denser and egg-shaped, or elliptical, and are largely filled with old stars.
  • Nearby, several exercisers were striding on elliptical.
  • Unlike spiral and elliptical galaxies, irregular galaxies lack any appearance of organized structure.
  • It's an elliptical way of thinking, equating cause and effect.
  • elliptical galaxies may also be small, in which case they are dubbed dwarf elliptical galaxies.
  • elliptical orbits do not preclude objects from being planets.
  • In the upper left of this photograph, faint billowing shapes can be seen in the outer regions of an elliptical galaxy.
British Dictionary definitions for elliptical


relating to or having the shape of an ellipse
relating to or resulting from ellipsis
(of speech, literary style, etc)
  1. very condensed or concise, often so as to be obscure or ambiguous
  2. circumlocutory or long-winded
Also (for senses 1, 2) elliptic
Derived Forms
elliptically, adverb
ellipticalness, noun
Usage note
The use of elliptical to mean circumlocutory should be avoided as it may be interpreted wrongly as meaning condensed or concise
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 elliptical

1650s, "elliptic in shape;" see elliptic + -al (1). Grammatical sense of "missing essential words or phrases" is recorded from 1778 (see ellipsis). Related: Elliptically.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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