I have a question about the usage of the phrase "keep any shape" here:

Liquids, says Bauman, do not keep any shape for long and are constantly prone to alteration.

I looked up a dictionary, but did not find the phrase "keep any shape" or "keep shape". I then tried finding a sense of the verb "keep" that would fit this usage, but found none.

Could this usage of "keep" be scientific lingo?

  • The technical terms (aka "scientific lingo") are viscosity (for the stress needed to make a liquid of a given thickness have different speeds on either side of the liquid) and creep (for the rate at which a solid deforms for a given tensile stress). The more viscous the liquid, the harder it is (or the longer it takes) to get it to change shape. The more creep resistant the solid, the harder it is (or the longer it takes) to get it to suffer inelastic deformation. A solid will "bounce back" from elastic deformation, but inelastic deformation remains after the stress goes away.
    – Jasper
    Feb 2, 2015 at 20:25
  • @Jasper I understand liquid has no shape. But, I don't understand the usage of "keep any shape", because I cannot find it in my dictionary.
    – meatie
    Feb 3, 2015 at 3:51
  • At any given instant, a liquid does have a shape. For example, a droplet, or a lake, or a crown. (Look at some of Doc Edgerton's "stop-motion" pictures of milk droplets.) But most liquids have very low creep resistance, so they cannot "keep any [particular] shape [very] long". By the way, there are some very viscous fluids that do keep their shape for a long time. For example, the glass in a glass bottle is technically a fluid (a liquid, because it is neither a gas nor a plasma).
    – Jasper
    Feb 3, 2015 at 4:43

1 Answer 1


No, no scientific lingo for "keep" here. It's simply definition no. 4 at Collins Dictionary:

to remain or cause to remain in a specified state or condition

So, in other words, "liquids don't hold their shape".

  • Using the definition, the original example sentence would become "Liquids do not cause any shape remain in some state for long and are constantly prone to alteration". Is that right?
    – meatie
    Feb 3, 2015 at 0:37
  • Too complicated. Use the first half of the definition: "Liquids do not remain in any shape for long and..."
    – Stephie
    Feb 3, 2015 at 5:07
  • An example for he second half would be: "I'll keep the soup warm for you." -> I cause the soup to remain in this state/condition (by leaving the stove on).
    – Stephie
    Feb 3, 2015 at 5:14

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