1. a numerical symbol, especially an Arabic numeral.
  2. an amount or value expressed in numbers.
  3. figures, the use of numbers in calculating; arithmetic: to be poor at figures.
  4. a written symbol other than a letter.
  5. form or shape, as determined by outlines or exterior surfaces: to be round, square, or cubical in figure.
  6. the bodily form or frame: a slender or graceful figure.
  7. an individual bodily form or a person with reference to form or appearance: A tall figure stood in the doorway.
  8. a character or personage, especially one of distinction: a well-known figure in society.
  9. a person’s public image or presence: a controversial political figure.
  10. the appearance or impression made by a person or sometimes a thing: to make quite a figure in financial circles; to present a wretched figure of poverty.
  11. a representation, pictorial or sculptured, especially of the human form: The frieze was bordered with the figures of men and animals.
  12. an emblem, type, or symbol: The dove is a figure of peace.
  13. Rhetoric. a figure of speech.
  14. a textural pattern, as in cloth or wood: draperies with an embossed silk figure.
  15. a distinct movement or division of a dance.
  16. a movement, pattern, or series of movements in skating.
  17. Music. a short succession of musical notes, as either a melody or a group of chords, that produces a single complete and distinct impression.
  18. Geometry. a combination of geometric elements disposed in a particular form or shape: The circle, square, and polygon are plane figures. The sphere, cube, and polyhedron are solid figures.
  19. Logic. the form of a categorical syllogism with respect to the relative position of the middle term.
  20. Optics. the precise curve required on the surface of an optical element, especially the mirror or correcting plate of a reflecting telescope.
  21. the natural pattern on a sawed wood surface produced by the intersection of knots, burls, growth rings, etc.
  22. a phantasm or illusion.

verb (used with object), fig·ured, fig·ur·ing.

  1. to compute or calculate (often followed by up): to figure up a total.
  2. to express in figures.
  3. to mark or adorn with a design or pattern.
  4. to portray by speech or action.
  5. to represent or express by a figure of speech.
  6. to represent by a pictorial or sculptured figure, a diagram, or the like; picture or depict; trace (an outline, silhouette, etc.).
  7. Informal. to conclude, judge, reason, or think about: I figured that you wanted me to stay.
  8. Music.
    1. to embellish with passing notes or other decorations.
    2. to write figures above or below (a bass part) to indicate accompanying chords.

verb (used without object), fig·ured, fig·ur·ing.

  1. to compute or work with numerical figures.
  2. to be or appear, especially in a conspicuous or prominent way: His name figures importantly in my report.
  3. Informal. (of a situation, act, request, etc.) to be logical, expected, or reasonable: He quit the job when he didn’t get a raise—it figured.

Verb Phrases

  1. figure in, to add in: Figure in rent and utilities as overhead.
  2. figure on, Informal.
    1. to count or rely on.
    2. to take into consideration; plan on: You had better figure on running into heavy traffic leaving the city.
  3. figure out, Informal.
    1. to understand; solve: We couldn’t figure out where all the money had gone.
    2. to calculate; compute.
  4. figure up, Informal. to total: The bill figures up to exactly $1000.
  1. cut a figure. cut(defs 84, 85b).


  1. any written symbol other than a letter, esp a whole number
  2. another name for digit (def. 2)
  3. an amount expressed numericallya figure of 1800 was suggested
  4. (plural) calculations with numbershe’s good at figures
  5. visible shape or form; outline
  6. the human form, esp as regards size or shapea girl with a slender figure
  7. a slim bodily shape (esp in the phrases keep or lose one’s figure)
  8. a character or personage, esp a prominent or notable one; personalitya figure in politics
  9. the impression created by a person through behaviour (esp in the phrase to cut a fine, bold, etc, figure)
    1. a person as impressed on the mindthe figure of Napoleon
    2. (in combination)father-figure
  10. a representation in painting or sculpture, esp of the human form
  11. an illustration or explanatory diagram in a text
  12. a representative object or symbol; emblem
  13. a pattern or design, as on fabric or in wood
  14. a predetermined set of movements in dancing or skating
  15. geometry any combination of points, lines, curves, or planes. A plane figure, such as a circle, encloses an area; a solid figure such as a sphere, encloses a volume
  16. rhetoric See figure of speech
  17. logic one of the four possible arrangements of the three terms in the premises of a syllogismCompare mood 2 (def. 2)
  18. music
    1. a numeral written above or below a note in a partSee figured bass, thorough bass
    2. a characteristic short pattern of notes


  1. (when tr, often foll by up) to calculate or compute (sums, amounts, etc)
  2. (tr; usually takes a clause as object) informal, mainly US, Canadian and NZ to think or conclude; consider
  3. (tr) to represent by a diagram or illustration
  4. (tr) to pattern or mark with a design
  5. (tr) to depict or portray in a painting, etc
  6. (tr) rhetoric to express by means of a figure of speech
  7. (tr) to imagine
  8. (tr) music
    1. to decorate (a melody line or part) with ornamentation
    2. to provide figures above or below (a bass part) as an indication of the accompanying harmonies requiredSee figured bass, thorough bass
  9. (intr usually foll by in) to be includedhis name figures in the article
  10. (intr) informal to accord with expectation; be logicalit figures that he wouldn’t come
  11. go figure informal an expression of surprise, astonishment, wonder, etc

late 14c., “to represent” (in a picture); see figure (n.). Meaning “to shape into” is early 15c.; “to picture in the mind” is from c.1600; “to make an appearance” is c.1600. Meaning “work out a sum” is from 1833, American English. Related: Figured; figuring.


early 13c., “visible form or appearance of a person,” from Old French figure (10c.) “shape, body, form, figure; symbol, allegory,” from Latin figura “a shape, form, figure,” from PIE *dheigh- “to form, build” (see dough); originally in English with meaning “numeral,” but sense of “form, likeness” is almost as old (mid-13c.).

Philosophical and scientific senses are from Latin figura being used to translate Greek skhema. The rhetorical use of figure dates to late 14c.; hence figure of speech (1824). Figure eight as a shape was originally figure of eight (c.1600).


  1. A form or shape, as of the human body.
  2. A person representing the essential aspects of a particular role.

In addition to the idioms beginning with figure

  • figure in
  • figure on
  • figure out
  • figure up

also see:

  • ballpark figure
  • in round numbers (figures)
  • it figures

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

47 queries 1.104