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Borrowed from German Gestalt (shape, figure, form).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ɡəˈʃtælt/, /ɡəˈʃtɑːlt/, /-ˈst-/
    • (file)
  • (US) IPA(key): /ɡəˈʃtɔlt/, /ɡəˈstɔlt/


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.
    • 1980, George Lakoff, Mark Johnson, chapter 15, in Metaphors We Live By:
      Thus one activity, talking, is understood in terms of another, physical fighting. Structuring our experience in terms of such multidimensional gestalts is what makes our experience coherent.
    • 1996, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, The Origins of Grammar, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press:
      ... 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 ...
    • 2003 August, Jay Kirk, “Watching the Detectives”, in Harpers Magazine[1], volume 307, number 1839, page 61:
      The clusters of behavioral gestalten... the probability factors... the subtypes of crimes... the constellations of criminal subtypes...
    • 2008, Jonathan Nasaw, Fear Itself:
      Obviously it was related to the entire gestalt of Simon's polyphobia and compensatory counterphobia. The boys used to watch horror movies on late-night television []
  2. (Can we verify(+) this sense?) Shape, form.
    • 1977, John L. Hess, Karen Hess, The Taste of America, New York: Grossman:
      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."
    • 1998, David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, 1st Back Bay edition, Boston: Little, Brown and Co.:
      So different were our appearances and approaches and general gestalts that we had something of an epic rivalry from '74 through '77.

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Borrowed from German Gestalt. Attested since 1623.


gestalt c

  1. a figure ((shape of a) being, especially a human or human-like being)
    de centrala gestalterna i berättelsen
    the central figures (characters) in the story
    en lång gestalt skymtade i dimman
    a tall figure could be seen through the mist
  2. (more rarely, somewhat poetic) a shape, a form (more generally)
  3. a gestalt (a whole different from the sum of its parts)

Usage notes[edit]

More everyday-sounding compared to English gestalt in (sense 1), matching figure in tone as well.


Declension of gestalt 
Singular Plural
Indefinite Definite Indefinite Definite
Nominative gestalt gestalten gestalter gestalterna
Genitive gestalts gestaltens gestalters gestalternas

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