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


  • (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, “Chapter XIX”, in Edward Roth, transl., 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.
    • 1940, Edmund Wilson, To the Finland Station:
      If he is sometimes elliptical and obscure, it is because he has so much to tell us.
  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.