Is there a difference between shapes and figures, or these words are synonyms in terms of geometry? Thank you.

closed as off-topic by user3169, Nathan Tuggy, Glorfindel, Em., JavaLatte Dec 4 '16 at 9:30

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  • Your question needs to be expanded to show your understanding of the meaning of the words, along with some examples of said shapes/figures you are wondering about. figure has a broad usage so additional details are needed to focus on your problem. – user3169 Dec 3 '16 at 21:15
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    Shape is one of the possible meanings of figure. Have a look at this dictionary definition: if that doesn't explain everything to you, please ask a more specific question. dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/figure – JavaLatte Dec 4 '16 at 9:30

In geometry, there are certain set "shapes" (outlines) that are defined:

2-D: circles, squares, triangles, rectangles...
3-D: cubes, cylinders, spheres...

The instances, or when they occur, are called "figures"

A cube is a 3-D figure.
A circle is a planar figure.

The figure is in the shape of a square.


The definition of a square is that it has four equals sides and the angles between the sides are 90 degrees. This defines a square's "shape", what it will look like, but since it has not been drawn, there is no "figure of a square", only the idea of its "shape".

Draw a square:

Now, that the square is drawn: the black square is a "figure" of a square.

  • "Look at this picture. This is a square. It's a..." Shape or figure? Which word is preferable here? – Yulia Dec 3 '16 at 11:32
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    The "figure" (picture) has the "shape" of a square", "It is a "figure" of a square". The "figure" is the "picture", the "shape" is what it looks like. – Peter Dec 3 '16 at 17:27

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