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Shape up: weird and wonderful words for forms

Sitting in a circle, playing the triangle, being a square – we’re all familiar with common words for shapes (and some of their figurative uses). As you got further in school, you’ll no doubt have learnt more and more shapes – from square and rectangle to rhombus and dodecagon. But words to do with shapes aren’t restricted to the world of geometry. The suffix iform added to a word indicates that an object takes that shape – i.e. if something is petalform then it has the form of a petal; it is petal-shaped.  Many such words are botanical, zoological, medical, or archaeological.

Here is a selection of some of more unusual terms for shapes or resemblances, taken from Oxford Dictionaries. Why not throw one into conversation today?

word resembling / in the form of
aciculiform a needle
actiniform a sea anemone
agariciform a mushroom
alphabetiform letters of an alphabet
alveoliform a honeycomb
amentiform catkin
anguilliform an eel
arciform a bow
calceiform a shoe or slipper
calculiform a pebble
caliciform a cup
clypeiform a round shield
cochleiform a snail-shell
crotaliform a rattlesnake
fabiform a bean
falciform a sickle
fenestriform a window
filiform thread
fistuliform a reed or tube
flabelliform a fan
fossiform a trench
graminiform grass
guttiform a drop
lacertiform a lizard
lachrymiform a tear
limaciform a slug
maliform an apple
maxilliform a cheekbone
medusiform a jellyfish
melliform honey
moniliform beads on a string
morbilliform a measles rash
muriform a mouse or a mulberry
napiform a turnip
nubiform a cloud
onisciform a woodlouse
ostreiform an oyster
panduriform a fiddle
passeriform a sparrow
pateriform a shallow bowl
phociform a seal
phylliform a leaf
piliform a hair
pisiform a pea
platessiform a plaice
plumiform a feather
pocilliform a small cup
pugioniform a dagger
pulviniform a cushion
pyriform a pear
raniform a frog
retiform a net
rotiform a wheel
scobiform sawdust or filings
scolopendriform a centipede
scopiform a broom
setiform bristles
strombuliform a top
suberiform cork
urceiform a vase or goblet
vespiform a wasp


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