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elliptic +‎ -al, from Ancient Greek ἐλλειπτικός (elleiptikós), from ἐλλείπω (elleípō, I leave out, omit). Surface analysis ellipse +‎ -ical.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ɪˈlɪp.tɪk.əl/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ɪˈlɪp.tɪ.kəl/, /əˈlɪp.tɪ.kəl/
  • (file)


elliptical (comparative more elliptical, superlative most elliptical)

  1. In a shape of, or reminding of, an ellipse; oval.
    • 1876, Edward Roth (translator), “Chapter XIX”, in All Around the Moon:
      Having admitted that the projectile was describing an orbit around the moon, this orbit must necessarily be elliptical; science proves that it must be so.
  2. Of, or showing ellipsis; having a word or words omitted.
    If he is sometimes elliptical and obscure, it is because he has so much to tell us. (Can we date this quote by Edmund Wilson and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?) Edmund Wilson
  3. (of speech) Concise, condensed.
    • 1903, Gilbert Keith Chesterton, “Chapter VI”, in Robert Browning:
      Browning's dark and elliptical mode of speech, like his love of the grotesque, was simply a characteristic of his, a trick of his temperament, and had little or nothing to do with whether what he was expressing was profound or superficial.
    • early 20th century, O. Henry, The Making of a New Yorker:
      He was called a tramp; but that was only an elliptical way of saying that he was a philosopher, an artist, a traveller, a naturalist and a discoverer.
  4. (mathematics, rare) Elliptic.

Usage notes[edit]

  • In botanical usage, elliptic(al) refers only to the general shape of the object (usually a leaf), independently of its apex or margin (and sometimes the base), so that an "elliptic leaf" may very well be pointed at both ends. A three-dimensional elliptical object is ellipsoid, while an object that is not a perfectly stretched circle is ovoid or obovoid.


Derived terms[edit]



elliptical (plural ellipticals)

  1. (astronomy) An elliptical galaxy.
  2. An elliptical trainer.