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See also: Gestalt


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Borrowed from German Gestalt (shape, figure, form). The German term can also apply to a geometric or graphical shape, unlike its usage in English.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ɡəˈʃtælt/, /ɡəˈʃtɑːlt/
    • (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.
    • 2003 August 1, 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. Shape, form
    • 1977, John L. Hess and 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."
    • 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 ...
    • 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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