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or shapeup

[sheyp-uhp] /ˈʃeɪpˌʌp/
an act or instance of shaping up.
a former method of hiring longshoremen in which the applicants appeared daily at the docks and a union hiring boss chose those who would be given work.
Origin of shape-up
1940-45; noun use of verb phrase shape up


[sheyp] /ʃeɪp/
the quality of a distinct object or body in having an external surface or outline of specific form or figure.
this quality as found in some individual object or body form:
This lake has a peculiar shape.
something seen in outline, as in silhouette:
A vague shape appeared through the mist.
an imaginary form; phantom.
an assumed appearance; guise:
an angel in the shape of a woman.
a particular or definite organized form or expression:
He could give no shape to his ideas.
proper form; orderly arrangement.
condition or state of repair:
The old house was in bad shape. He was sick last year, but is in good shape now.
the collective conditions forming a way of life or mode of existence:
What will the shape of the future be?
the figure, physique, or body of a person, especially of a woman:
A dancer can keep her shape longer than those of us who have sedentary jobs.
something used to give form, as a mold or a pattern.
Also called section. Building Trades, Metalworking. a flanged metal beam or bar of uniform section, as a channel iron, I-beam, etc.
Nautical. a ball, cone, drum, etc., used as a day signal, singly or in combinations, to designate a vessel at anchor or engaged in some particular operation.
verb (used with object), shaped, shaping.
to give definite form, shape, organization, or character to; fashion or form.
to couch or express in words:
to shape a statement.
to adjust; adapt:
He shaped everything to suit his taste.
to direct (one's course, future, etc.).
to file the teeth of (a saw) to uniform width after jointing.
Animal Behavior, Psychology. to teach (a desired behavior) to a human or other animal by successively rewarding the actions that more and more closely approximate that behavior.
Obsolete. to appoint; decree.
verb (used without object), shaped, shaping.
to come to a desired conclusion or take place in a specified way:
If discussions shape properly, the companies will merge.
Verb phrases
shape up,
  1. to assume a specific form:
    The plan is beginning to shape up.
  2. to evolve or develop, especially favorably.
  3. to improve one's behavior or performance to meet a required standard.
  4. to get oneself into good physical condition.
  5. (of longshoremen) to get into a line or formation in order to be assigned the day's work.
take shape, to assume a fixed form; become definite:
The house is beginning to take shape.
before 900; (noun) Middle English; Old English gesceapu (plural); replacing dial. shap, Middle English; Old English gesceap (singular); cognate with Old Norse skap state, mood; (v.) Middle English; Old English sceapen (past participle); replacing Middle English sheppe, shippe, Old English sceppan, scyppan; cognate with German schaffen, Old Norse skepja, Gothic -skapjan to make
Related forms
shapable, shapeable, adjective
outshape, verb (used with object), outshaped, outshaping.
preshape, noun, verb (used with object), preshaped, preshaping.
transshape, verb (used with object), transshaped, transshaping.
unshapable, adjective
unshapeable, adjective
unshaping, adjective
1. silhouette, appearance. See form. 4. specter, illusion. 7. order, pattern. 8. order, situation. 14. mold, model. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for shape up
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Hereafter, as fast as possible, we want to shape up our holdings so as to double-winter all our beef cattle.

    Wells Brothers Andy Adams
  • Gradually, under the coaching of Brad, the team began to shape up.

  • Cut the mortises and grooves first, then shape up the sides.

    Mission Furniture H. H. Windsor
  • Also shape up the "false" extensions of these pieces which are to be fastened below the lower frame at the corners.

    Mission Furniture H. H. Windsor
  • However, if we can fix it up with Agatha for you to spend the summer with her, perhaps matters will shape up better in the fall.

    Betty Gordon at Bramble Farm Alice B. Emerson
British Dictionary definitions for shape up

shape up

verb (intransitive, adverb)
(informal) to proceed or develop satisfactorily
(informal) to develop a definite or proper form
(US & Canadian) (formerly) a method of hiring dockers for a day or shift by having a union hiring boss select them from a gathering of applicants


the outward form of an object defined by outline
the figure or outline of the body of a person
a phantom
organized or definite form: my plans are taking shape
the form that anything assumes; guise
something used to provide or define form; pattern; mould
condition or state of efficiency: to be in good shape
out of shape
  1. in bad physical condition
  2. bent, twisted, or deformed
take shape, to assume a definite form
when intr, often foll by into or up. to receive or cause to receive shape or form
(transitive) to mould into a particular pattern or form; modify
(transitive) to plan, devise, or prepare: to shape a plan of action
an obsolete word for appoint
Derived Forms
shapable, shapeable, adjective
shaper, noun
Word Origin
Old English gesceap, literally: that which is created, from scieppan to create; related to sceap sexual organs, Old Norse skap destiny, Old High German scaf form


noun acronym
Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe
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 shape up



Old English scapan, past participle of scieppan "to create, form, destine" (past tense scop), from Proto-Germanic *skapjanan "create, ordain" (cf. Old Norse skapa, Danish skabe, Old Saxon scapan, Old Frisian skeppa, Middle Dutch schappen "do, treat," Old High German scaffan, German schaffen "shape, create, produce"), from PIE root *(s)kep- a base forming words meaning "to cut, scrape, hack" (see scabies), which acquired broad technical senses and in Germanic a specific sense of "to create."

Old English scieppan survived into Middle English as shippen, but shape emerged as a regular verb (with past tense shaped) by 1500s. The old past participle form shapen survives in misshapen. Middle English shepster (late 14c.) "dressmaker, female cutter-out," is literally "shape-ster," from Old English scieppan.

Meaning "to form in the mind" is from late 14c. Phrase Shape up (v.) is literally "to give form to by stiff or solid material;" attested from 1865 as "progress;" from 1938 as "reform;" shape up or ship out is attested from 1956, originally U.S. military slang, with the sense being "do right or get shipped up to active duty."


Old English sceap, gesceap "form; created being, creature; creation; condition; sex, genitalia," from root of shape (v.)). Meaning "contours of the body" is attested from late 14c. Meaning "condition, state" is first recorded 1865, American English. In Middle English, the word in plural also had a sense of "a woman's private parts." Shape-shifter attested from 1820. Out of shape "not in proper shape" is from 1690s. Shapesmith "one who undertakes to improve the form of the body" was used in 1715.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for shape up



Condition; state of fitness: I have to find out what shape they're in (1865+)

Related Terms

bent out of shape



  1. A poor, dilapidated neighborhood
  2. cluster of makeshift dwellings, often on the edge of a town and inhabited by the vagrant or the very poor; hooverville (1876+)
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Related Abbreviations for shape up


Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers, Europe
The American Heritage® Abbreviations Dictionary, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Idioms and Phrases with shape up

shape up

Turn out, develop; see take shape
Improve so as to meet a standard, as in The coach told the team that they'd better shape up or they'd be at the bottom of the league. This usage was first recorded in 1938.
shape up or ship out Behave yourself or be forced to leave, as in The new supervisor told Tom he'd have to shape up or ship out. This expression originated in the 1940s, during World War II, as a threat that if one didn't behave in an appropriate military manner one would be sent overseas to a combat zone. After the war it was transferred to other situations calling for improved performance.


In addition to the idiom beginning with
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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