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See also: Gestalt


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Borrowing from German Gestalt(shape, figure, form). The German term can also apply to a geometric or graphical shape, but that is not the case when this word is used in English.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ɡəˈʃtælt/, /ɡəˈʃtɑːlt/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ɡəˈʃtɔlt/


gestalt ‎(plural gestalts or gestalten)

  1. A collection of physical, biological, psychological or symbolic elements that creates a whole, unified concept or pattern which is other than the sum of its parts, due to the relationships between the parts (of a character, personality, entity, or being)
    • This biography is the first one to consider fully the writer's gestalt.
    • The clusters of behavioral gestalten... the probability factors... the subtypes of crimes... the constellations of criminal subtypes... — Jay Kirk, "Watching the Detectives", Harpers Magazine, Vol. 307, Iss. 1839; pg. 61, Aug, 2003
  2. Shape, form
    • Mary did not approve of the Eleanor gestalt. "I been to Woonsocket S.D., Eleanor McGovern's hometown," she said, "and nobody there? I mean nobody? dresses like that." — John L. Hess and Karen Hess, "The Taste of America", Grossman, New York, 1977
    • ... depending on the kinds of speech children hear directed to them, they may first learn unanalyzed "gestalts" (e.g., social expressions like "What's that?" uttered as a single unit) instead of learning single words that are then freely recombined ...— Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, "The Origins of Grammar", The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1996
    • So different were our appearances and approaches and general gestalts that we had something of an epic rivalry from '74 through '77. — David Foster Wallace, "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again", Boston: Little, Brown and Co., Edition: 1st Back Bay ed., 1998

Derived terms[edit]