These nouns refer to the external outline of a thing. Form is the outline and structure of a thing as opposed to its substance: a brooch in the form of a lovers' knot.Figure refers usually to form as established by bounding or enclosing lines: The cube is a solid geometric figure.Shape implies three-dimensional definition that indicates both outline and bulk or mass: “He faced her, a hooded and cloaked shape” (Joseph Conrad). Configuration stresses the pattern formed by the arrangement of parts within an outline: The map shows the configuration of North America, with its mountains, rivers, and plains.Contour refers especially to the outline of a three-dimensional figure: I traced the contour of the bow with my finger.Profile denotes the outline of something viewed against a background and especially the outline of the human face in side view: The police took a photograph of the mugger's profile.
The one thing that recalled the patriotic fervor everyone had displayed during the Emperor's stay was the call for contributions of men and money, a necessity that as soon as the promises had been made assumed a legal, official form and became unavoidable.
Yet all the same this information astonished and irritated the count, coming as it did in the form of a simple note with an order from Kutuzov, and received at night, breaking in on his beauty sleep.
The sobs rose higher and higher in her throat as she more and more clearly distinguished his form and her shortsighted eyes tried to make out his features, and then she saw his face and met his gaze.
It was the unexpected realization of the fact that he still valued life as presented to him in the form of his love for Natasha, and a last, though ultimately vanquished, attack of terror before the unknown.