n. & v.
1. a the external form or shape of a thing. b bodily shape (has a well-developed figure).
2 a a person as seen in outline but not identified (saw a figure leaning against the door). b a person as contemplated mentally (a public figure).
3 appearance as giving a certain impression (cut a poor figure).
4 a a representation of the human form in drawing, sculpture, etc. b an image or likeness. c an emblem or type.
5 Geom. a two-dimensional space enclosed by a line or lines, or a three-dimensional space enclosed by a surface or surfaces; any of the classes of these, e.g. the triangle, the sphere.
6 a a numerical symbol, esp. any of the ten in Arabic notation. b a number so expressed. c an amount of money, a value (cannot put a figure on it). d (in pl.) arithmetical calculations.
7 a diagram or illustrative drawing.
8 a decorative pattern.
9 a a division of a set dance, an evolution. b (in skating) a prescribed pattern of movements from a stationary position.
10 Mus. a short succession of notes producing a single impression, a brief melodic or rhythmic formula out of which longer passages are developed.
11 (in full figure of speech) a recognized form of rhetorical expression giving variety, force, etc., esp. metaphor or hyperbole.
12 Gram. a permitted deviation from the usual rules of construction, e.g. ellipsis.
13 Logic the form of a syllogism, classified according to the position of the middle term.
14 a horoscope.
1. intr. appear or be mentioned, esp. prominently.
2 tr. represent in a diagram or picture.
3 tr. imagine; picture mentally.
4 tr. a embellish with a pattern (figured satin). b Mus. embellish with figures.
5 tr. mark with numbers (figured bass) or prices.
6 a tr. calculate. b intr. do arithmetic.
7 tr. be a symbol of, represent typically.
8 esp. US a tr. understand, ascertain, consider. b intr. colloq. be likely or understandable (that figures).
Phrases and idioms:
figured bass Mus. CONTINUO. figure of fun a ridiculous person. figure on US count on, expect. figure out
1. work out by arithmetic or logic.
3 understand. figure-skater a person who practises figure-skating. figure-skating skating in prescribed patterns from a stationary position.
Etymology: ME f. OF figure (n.), figurer (v.) f. L figura, figurare, rel. to fingere fashion