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.

Primary Meanings of outline

1.
nv
the line that appears to bound an object
trace the shape of
2.
nv
a sketchy summary of the main points of an argument or theory
draw up an outline or sketch for something
Full Definitions of outline
1

n the line that appears to bound an object

Synonyms:
lineation
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

v trace the shape of

Synonyms:
delineate, limn
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
2

n a sketchy summary of the main points of an argument or theory

Synonyms:
abstract, precis, synopsis
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

n a schematic or preliminary plan

Synonyms:
schema, scheme
Type of:
plan, program, programme
a series of steps to be carried out or goals to be accomplished

v draw up an outline or sketch for something

Synonyms:
draft
Type of:
compose, indite, pen, write
produce a literary work

v describe roughly or briefly or give the main points or summary of

“sketch the outline of the book”
outline his ideas”
Synonyms:
adumbrate, sketch
Types:
block out
indicate roughly
Type of:
depict, describe, draw
give a description of

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