outline

The gist, the essence, the major parts of something — that's its outline.

The origins of outline come from the artistic practice of marking a line around the outer edge of a person or shape in a picture before filling it in. Only later, in the 1800s, did it come to be applied to verbal descriptions, too. Technically an outline suggests a condensed form of something, but as any high school or college student knows, course outlines have a habit of being pretty darn long. In 1919 H.G. Wells wrote a book called An Outline of History. Its length? 1,324 pages.

Definitions of outline
  1. noun
    the line that appears to bound an object
    synonyms: lineation
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    types:
    coastline
    the outline of a coast
    silhouette
    an outline of a solid object (as cast by its shadow)
    skyline
    the outline of objects seen against the sky
    type of:
    bound, boundary, bounds
    the line or plane indicating the limit or extent of something
  2. verb
    trace the shape of
    synonyms: delineate, limn
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    types:
    lipstick
    form by tracing with lipstick
    contour
    form the contours of
    streamline
    contour economically or efficiently
    type of:
    draw
    represent by making a drawing of, as with a pencil, chalk, etc. on a surface
  3. noun
    a sketchy summary of the main points of an argument or theory
    synonyms: abstract, precis, synopsis
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    types:
    brief
    a condensed written summary or abstract
    apercu
    a short synopsis
    epitome
    a brief abstract (as of an article or book)
    type of:
    sum-up, summary
    a brief statement that presents the main points in a concise form
  4. noun
    a schematic or preliminary plan
    synonyms: schema, scheme
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    type of:
    plan, program, programme
    a series of steps to be carried out or goals to be accomplished
  5. verb
    draw up an outline or sketch for something
    synonyms: draft
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    type of:
    compose, indite, pen, write
    produce a literary work
  6. verb
    describe roughly or briefly or give the main points or summary of
    “sketch the outline of the book”
    outline his ideas”
    synonyms: adumbrate, sketch
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    types:
    block out
    indicate roughly
    type of:
    depict, describe, draw
    give a description of
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