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What Does the Term "Pear-Shaped" Mean?

M.C. Huguelet
Updated: May 23, 2024

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the term pear-shaped generally refers to something which is shaped like a pear, or which, in other words, is small at the top and curves outward at the bottom. This term is frequently used to describe a body type common among many women. Some medical researchers believe that a woman whose figure resembles a pear has certain health advantages and risks which are dictated by her body shape. In some English-speaking countries, pear-shaped is also used as a slang term which describes an event or situation that has taken a bad turn.

The term pear-shaped is applied to things which have a shape similar to that of the pear fruit. In other words, it refers to objects which are small at the top and which curve outward from their middle so that they are large at the bottom. Examples of objects which are roughly shaped like pears are the body of an acoustic guitar as well as certain milk bottles.

One of the most familiar usages of the term pear-shaped, however, is as a descriptor for the female form. Women who are labeled “pears” are those who carry most of their fat around their hips, thighs, and buttocks, making their top halves appear small by comparison. They are contrasted with apple-shaped women, who tend to carry weight around their middles, giving them a round, apple-like silhouette.

Some medical researchers believe that pear-shaped women have certain health advantages and disadvantages which are dictated by their body shape. For instance, “pears” are less likely than “apples” to develop heart disease, certain types of cancer, depression, and diabetes. On the other hand, “pears” are more likely than “apples” to suffer from osteoporosis and varicose veins. Further, despite the fact that women with small waists and large hips and thighs constituted the standard of female beauty in much classical art, women with a pear shape are more likely to suffer from negative body images and eating disorders than “apples.”

In the English-speaking countries of Europe and in Australia, pear-shaped is used as a slang term to describe an event or situation that has taken a bad or unexpected term. For instance, if one got into a car accident as he drove a date home from dinner, he might say that the date had gone pear-shaped at the end. While the exact origin of this usage of the term is not known, many believe it comes from the concept of a perfect circle. In other words, if an event which goes according to plan can be equated to a perfect circle, one which goes badly can be equated to a circle which has lost its perfect shape, or become pear-shaped.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
M.C. Huguelet
By M.C. Huguelet
Cate Huguelet, a Chicago-based freelance writer with a passion for storytelling, crafts engaging content for a wide range of publications, including Language & Humanities. With degrees in Writing and English, she brings a unique perspective and a commitment to clean, precise copy that resonates with readers. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any content creation team.
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M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet
Cate Huguelet, a Chicago-based freelance writer with a passion for storytelling, crafts engaging content for a wide...
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