I'm writing a scientific journal.

I'm looking for another expression (or other expressions) for an ellipsoid whose major axis is long (or very long).

(By 'long ellipsoid' what I precisely mean is an ellipsoid whose major axis is much longer than other axes.)

I think 'long ellipsoid' doesn't really sound academical though one can understand it.

  • 2
    Elongated ellipsoid might work.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 5:50

3 Answers 3


The mathematical term for an extremely oblong ellipsoid or ellipse is “highly eccentric” and an only-slightly-less-technical term is “elongated.” Both terms are used in the Abstract for “Modeling sets of unordered points using highly eccentric ellipses”:

The points are modeled by highly eccentric ellipses, and line segments are extracted by the major axes of these elongated ellipses.

Note: Strictly speaking, the term eccentric applies to ellipses, the two-dimensional cross sections of ellipsoids, which are three dimensional. Even a highly enlongated ellipsoid can have a perfectly circular cross section in some direction, but no mathematician will misunderstand or object to the phrase highly eccentric ellipsoid.


If both minor axes are of equal length, then the precise term you're looking for the overall character of the shape is prolate spheroid (Wikipedia). From M-W.com:

prolate: elongated in the direction of a line joining the poles <a prolate spheroid>

spheroid: an object that is somewhat round but not perfectly round

If the two minor axes are not exactly equal then it's a bit muddled, but per the above Wikipedia article one could probably call it, e.g., a prolate tri-axial ellipsoid.

hmmn's answer is good in terms of emphasizing the extent to which the length of the major axis is greater than those of the minor axes, however.

To note, the above is in contrast to an ellipsoid where there are two long axes and one short axis, which is an oblate spheroid:

oblate: flattened or depressed at the poles <an oblate spheroid>

  • I might even suggest combining both answers, but in any case I think "prolate" ought to be part of the description. After all, if you rotate a highly eccentric ellipse around its minor axis it sweeps out an oblate spheroid, so merely emphasizing eccentricity seems to me to leave out the most important fact about the shape.
    – David K
    Commented Mar 14, 2016 at 20:31
  • Spheroids are three dimensional, and ellipses are two dimensional. Oblate and prolate do not make much sense in two dimensions, as oblate means one axis is shorter than the two others (which are equal) whereas prolate means one axis is longer than the two others (which are equal). In an ellipse that is not a circle, one axis is always longer than the other, and the other always shorter than the first, so neither prolate or oblate apply.
    – abligh
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 18:23
  • @abligh While I agree with the technical aspects of your comment, I'm unsure as to what portion of my answer toward which you are directing your criticism. The OP uniformly uses ellipsoid, not ellipse, for which prolate and oblate are, per your comment, straightforwardly pertinent.
    – hBy2Py
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 18:32
  • @Brian my apologies, you are quite right. I thought I read the accepted answer and thought he had said 'ellipse'. Have an upvote as in that case this is better than the accepted answer.
    – abligh
    Commented Mar 16, 2016 at 7:51

If the short axes of your ellipsoid have the same or a similar length, consider spindle-shaped or fusiform (which is the same in Latin).

The Oxford Dictionary of English defines spindle-shaped as:

having a circular cross section and tapering towards each end

The Wiktionary defines fusiform as:

Shaped like a spindle with yarn spun on it; having round or roundish cross-section and tapering at each end.

In case you don’t know what such spindles look like:

Coat of arms showing some spindles

Many other dictionaries skip the aspect of a round cross-section. I can only assume they regard it as implied by tapering towards each end.

Also note that both, spindle-shaped and fusiform could be interpreted as the end being pointy instead of rounded (which it would be for an ellipsoid), e.g., this article explicitly distinguishes between the two forms.

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