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Etymology 1[edit]

PIE word

From Middle English deforme (out of shape, deformed) [and other forms],[1] from Middle French deforme (modern French difforme (misshapen, deformed)), or directly from its etymon Latin dēfōrmis (departing physically from the correct shape, deformed, malformed, misshapen, ugly; (figuratively) departing morally from the correct quality, base, disgraceful, shameful, unbecoming), from dē- (prefix meaning ‘away from; from’) + fōrma (form, appearance, figure, shape; fine form, beauty; design, outline, plan; model, pattern; mould, stamp; (figuratively) kind, manner, sort) (further etymology unknown; perhaps related to Ancient Greek μορφή (morphḗ, form, shape; appearance; outline; kind, type), probably from Pre-Greek, but there is no consensus) + -is (suffix forming adjectives of the third declension).[2]


deform (comparative more deform, superlative most deform)

  1. (obsolete except poetic) Having an unusual and unattractive shape; deformed, misshapen; hence, hideous, ugly.
    Synonyms: disfigured, distorted, shapeless; see also Thesaurus:misshapen, Thesaurus:ugly
    Antonyms: see Thesaurus:beautiful, Thesaurus:shapely

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English deformen (to deform, disfigure, distort; to make ugly, mar; (figuratively) to disfigure morally; to defame; to dishonour) [and other forms],[3] equivalent to de- +‎ form, from Old French deformer [and other forms] (modern French déformer (to contort, distort, twist out of shape; (figuratively) to pervert)), or directly from its etymon Latin dēfōrmāre (whence Medieval Latin difformāre), the present active infinitive of dēfōrmō (to fashion, form; to delineate, describe; to design; to deform, disfigure; to mar, spoil), from dē- (prefix meaning ‘away from; from’) + fōrmō (to fashion, form, shape; to format) (from fōrma (noun); see further at etymology 1).[4]


deform (third-person singular simple present deforms, present participle deforming, simple past and past participle deformed)

  1. (transitive)
    1. To change the form of (something), usually thus making it disordered or irregular; to give (something) an abnormal or unusual shape.
      Synonyms: contort, distort
      Antonym: undeform
      Hyponyms: buckle, distend, warp
      1. (engineering, physics) To alter the shape of (something) by applying a force or stress.
    2. (also figuratively) To change the look of (something), usually thus making it imperfect or unattractive; to give (something) an abnormal or unusual appearance.
      Synonyms: deface, disfigure, distort, mar
      a face deformed by bitterness
      • 1590, Edmund Spenser, “Book III, Canto VI”, in The Faerie Queene. [], London: [] [John Wolfe] for William Ponsonbie, →OCLC, stanza 17, pages 482–483:
        Shortly vnto the vvaſtefull vvoods ſhe came, / VVhereas ſhe found the Goddeſſe vvith her crevv, / [] / Some of them vvaſhing vvith the liquid devv / From of their dainty limbs the duſty ſvveat, / And ſoyle vvhich did deforme their liuely hevv, []
      • a. 1628 (date written), John Hayward, The Life, and Raigne of King Edward the Sixt, London: [] [Eliot’s Court Press, and J. Lichfield at Oxford?] for Iohn Partridge, [], published 1630, →OCLC, page 16:
        The yeare next enſuing he [Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset] invaded the Scottiſh borders, waſted Tinedale & the marches and deformed the country with ruine and ſpoile.
      • 1638, Tho[mas] Herbert, Some Yeares Travels Into Divers Parts of Asia and Afrique. [], 2nd edition, London: [] R[ichard] Bi[sho]p for Iacob Blome and Richard Bishop, →OCLC, book I, page 80:
        [E]re Sun-riſe, his [Khusrau Mirza's] afflicted vvife (Cavvn Azems daughter) goes to viſit him; vvhere finding him ſpeechleſſe, and (by his contus'd face) murdered; never did poore vvretch ſhed more teares, or ſhevv more paſſion; by tearing her faire hayre, deforming her ſvveet face ſo fiercely, ſo amazedly, that her Father and all his family heare her, and ſee it to their griefe and admiration.
      • 1702, N[icholas] Rowe, Tamerlane. A Tragedy. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC, Act V, scene i, page 62:
        Still to deform thy gentle Brovv vvith Frovvns! / And ſtill to be perverſe! It is a manner / Abhorrent from the ſoftneſs of thy Sex: []
      • 1774, Hen[ry] Home, “Sketch XII. Origin and Progress of American Nations.”, in Sketches of the History of Man. [], volume II (Progress of Men in Society), Edinburgh: [] W[illiam] Creech, []; and for W[illiam] Strahan, and T[homas] Cadell, [], →OCLC, page 89:
        The [Native American] private men fought naked; their faces and bodies being deformed with paint, in order to terrify the enemy.
      • 1813, Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Canto VIII”, in Queen Mab; [], London: [] P. B. Shelley, [], →OCLC, page 104:
        No storms deform the beaming brow of heaven, / Nor scatter in the freshness of its pride / The foliage of the ever verdant trees; []
      • 1858 January 15 (date written), Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Hotel d’Angleterre, January 15th [1858]”, in Passages from the French and Italian Note-books of Nathaniel Hawthorne, volume I, London: Strahan & Co., [], published 1871, →OCLC, pages 44–45:
        The square was surrounded by stately buildings, but had what seemed to be barracks for soldiers—at any rate—mean little huts, deforming its ample space; and a soldier was on guard before the statue of Louis le Grand.
      • 1933, Gertrude Stein, “Gertrude Stein in Paris: 1903–1907”, in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, New York, N.Y.: Harcourt, Brace and Company, →OCLC, page 49:
        [Henri] Matisse at that time was at work at his first big decoration, Le Bonheur de Vivre. [] It was in this picture that Matisse first clearly realised his intention of deforming the drawing of the human body in order to harmonise and intensify the colour values of all the simple colours mixed only with white.
    3. To mar the character or quality of (something).
      a marriage deformed by jealousy
  2. (intransitive) To become changed in shape or misshapen.
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]


  1. ^ dēfō̆rme, adj.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ deform, adj.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2020.
  3. ^ dēfō̆rmen, v.(1)”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  4. ^ Compare deform, v.1”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2021; deform, adj.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading[edit]