I can't find the right definition for the thing that you see on the right. If we put all parts of it together we will get a box that we can rotate (this picture is taken from a quiz for kids - they need to guess which picture they will see if they look at each cube from the top).

But what is this unfolded thing on the right called in English correctly, in a single term? I found the word "scan" but I'm not sure it is a correct one. enter image description here

  • 5
    The kids shouldn't need to guess the picture; I think the idea is that they should be able to work it out... Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 9:32
  • 1
    Just wanted to throw out another vernacular-type term that might communicate to students with a sewing background or experience: pattern. Like a "dress pattern", this thing is a flat full-size shape that one could "cut out" and then fold and "stitch" (connect edges) into a 3D cube.
    – Jeff Y
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 20:12
  • In 3d graphics, that is called a cubemap.
    – Polygnome
    Commented Sep 1, 2019 at 16:28

6 Answers 6


The word is net.

I'm a maths teacher, and this is the standard term used in Australia. I'm fairly sure it's the same in other parts of the English-speaking world, thanks to sources like:

It's worth noting that this is not a common thing for most people to talk about, and unfortunately, "net" also has other (more common) meanings. A descriptive phrase, like your "unfolded thing", would be useful to name it when talking to people unfamiliar with the correct name.

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    slideplayer.com/slide/9016431/27/images/1/… Technically the word "net" is correct but I doubt a layperson would be familiar with the term. I know I wasn't. Still... +1
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 12:06
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    "Net" was certainly the word that was used when I was in primary school (in England). Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 9:33
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    I was taught "net" in school too, UK. +1
    – Astralbee
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 9:51
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    As an American, I have never heard the word "net" refer to this.
    – rm-vanda
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 14:05
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    As an American and a mathematician/math teacher, I can confirm that "net" is the standard term, and also that most Americans are not at all familiar with this usage. Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 2:00

User @Tim Pederick suggests the word “net”, which mathematicians will recognize. For the general public, it's difficult to find a single word to describe the "unfolded cube" in the picture.

A "scan" is not quite correct, because we use that word to mean when a scanner takes a flat picture, or a 3D representation of something.

Here are a few possibilities:

Multiview drawing

In the context of mechanical engineering, when someone creates an engineering drawing ("blueprint"), a layout of multiple views together might be called a multiview drawing (MIT Open Courseware), like this:

engineering drawing

The difference here is that you have modified the object (by unfolding it), so multiview drawing is close, but not quite right.


The word diagram (as opposed to picture) carries the meaning that something has been changed. A diagram can be a simplified version of something.

A schematic representation

A similar word is a "schematic" (noun) or a "schematic representation" or a "schematic drawing" or a "schematic diagram". This emphasizes that the drawing is not meant to be exactly like reality, but that it is supposed to help explain how something works.

Electrical engineers use schematic drawings to help understand circuits, but their drawings are not usually arranged in the exact same way that the physical components are laid out.

Simply an unfolded view

Your question used the word “unfolded” which is pretty descriptive. How about simply an “unfolded view“.

This is straightforward(Definition) and clear — the best kind of writing!

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    I don't believe any single word works as well as unfolded view. Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 11:34
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    Not a multiview drawing. Not in any way shape or form.
    – AndyT
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 10:07
  • @AndyT strong feedback .. answer edited. Maybe in some ways. :-) Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 10:46
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    Yes, I'd just call it an unfolded cube as pretty much everyone has done in writing an answer trying to justify fancier words.
    – arp
    Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 23:54
  • @whiskeychief - No, not in any way. The key thing in a multiview drawing is that you get multiple views in one drawing (e.g. top, front and side). What the OP is asking for is only one view.
    – AndyT
    Commented Sep 6, 2019 at 10:03

In mechanical engineering, 3D CAD and arts & craft such drawings are called unfolded though sometimes people also refer to them as unwrapped.

Software designed to generate such diagrams from 3D models are marketed as unfolding software and the term has been intuitively understood across multiple industries/communities.


I would call that an unfolded box too. And perhaps if you omitted a panel it would be an unfolded open-topped box.


For a non-technical audience, you might use 'breakdown' as in "the breakdown of the cube shows..."

This figure is difficult to describe using only one word. Some further explanation and elaboration will probably be required.


In projection

projection: MW 1.b
the process or technique of reproducing a spatial object upon a plane or curved surface or a line by projecting its points.
also : a graph or figure so formed

Calling a drawing a "flat projection" emphasizes that perspective is not taken into account:

flat projection A method of drawing what is directly visible from a point perpendicular to the line of vision, with no adjustments for perspective.

Technically you could call the drawing on the right the cube's "flat projection".

For general readership you could simply call it "the cube in projection", as in "here's six pictures of each side of the cube projected onto the flat surface you're looking at".

  • This is not a projection. A projection maps a higher dimensional object into a lower dimensional space witthout otherwise altering that object (this is the implication of both definitions you cite). This GeoGebra demonstration gives a good idea of what a projection should look like. Here, the cube is unfolded, first. The resulting object is a "net" (this term is taught in American schools, but I would imagine that most Americans wouldn't immediately understand it). I think that "unfolded" or "unwrapped" view would be understood by most native speakers.
    – user100347
    Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 21:51
  • @XanderHenderson when I looked at the picture I saw a cubic projection with the projection point at infinity and hence flat as well. My terminology arises from an engineering drawing background where side projections (views of the side of an object at right angles to an existing line of view) are drawn abutting each other, and "net" (a great term) wasn't used in the curricula of math studies I took. I agree "unfolded view, box, cube or ..." would work better for general readership.
    – traktor
    Commented Sep 1, 2019 at 2:13
  • The "cubic projection" to which you have linked is a projection of three dimensional space onto the surface of a cube, followed by an unfolding of the cube so that it can be displayed on a flat surface. The question is about that second step---unfolding the cube and laying it flat. To call that a projection is incorrect.
    – user100347
    Commented Sep 1, 2019 at 10:22

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