How do I describe the shape that is visible from the exterior of a pocket? For example, when we put a cell in our pants pocket, we can ‘see’ it is a cell phone.

How do I express this in a sentence? Is there a standard phrase, expression or idiom which describes this situation?

I can see the thing he's hiding in his pocket as the thing's shape was visible

I'm sorry if the sentence is a bit incorrect, but I am not able to construct a better one.

  • 35
    'Is that your phone or are you just happy to see me?'
    – user180089
    Jul 3 '16 at 19:51
  • 1
    umm what? I didn't get you? Jul 3 '16 at 20:05
  • 1
    @KunalBisht That quote can easily be looked up on Google. Scroll down to Mae West.
    – Mr Lister
    Jul 3 '16 at 20:08
  • @Mr lister. I first googled it but no help. Might be i used wrong key words but a help in shorter time is always appreciated. Jul 3 '16 at 20:11
  • 2
    re V0ight & Mr Lister: tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OrAreYouJustHappyToSeeMe
    – Cascabel
    Jul 3 '16 at 20:12

People often refer to the state you describe as one invovling bulging pockets. Here is a google image search of "pocket bulge" (but beware, the search also returns risque images of underpants).

Urban Dictionary even has an entry for "back pocket bulge," although they restrict it to the bulge caused by an overstuffed wallet.

Bulge means

Swell or protrude to an unnatural or incongruous extent (ODO)

To describe the situation where a pocket bulge reveals information that someone is trying to keep secret, you might use the word betray, which means

Unintentionally reveal; be evidence of (ODO)

An example sentence would be:

"His bulging pocket betrayed that he had his phone."

You could also call such a bulge a telling pocket bulge, where telling means

revealing (Dictionary.com)

An example sentence would be:

"He had a conspicuous and telling pocket bulge."

  • Thanks Silenus. I hope I can upvote but don't have repo. Thanks once again. I can use it. Jul 3 '16 at 20:04
  • @KunalBisht You got the rep now. Also, did you know you can accept answers? This will mark them as such, which is helpful for everyone reading your question. It also awards bonus reputation to the answerer and you.
    – Mast
    Jul 4 '16 at 10:15
  • @KunalBisht Looks like this. Next to the answer you want to accept.
    – Mast
    Jul 4 '16 at 14:30
  • 1
    @KunalBisht: You were shown the site tour just a few days ago. Time to take it again! Jul 4 '16 at 16:01

I could tell that he had his cell in his back pocket by its outline.

The outline is just another word for contour, a hard solid object such as a cell, a bunch of keys or a man's wallet will produce a distinctive shape in a fairly tight-fitting pocket.

outline (Cambridge Dictionaries)
the main shape or edge of something, without any details:
Underneath the hospital blankets I could see the outline of her poor wasted body.

There's even a question about outlines on LifeHacks Stack Exchange
How to prevent outline marks on trousers?

There's also the term fading as reported on Levis Strauss.com

The ‘Stuff-in-Your-Pockets’ Fading: While the wallet fade has become as ubiquitous as lap fades and whiskering, a newer popular pocket accessory—the iPhone—has launched scores of message boards online both in celebration and condemnation of cellphone outlines being worn on to the front and back of jeans.

You could combine both words as this person did on Pinterest

Love it when a man's jeans have the fade outline of a wallet.

enter image description here


There isn't a word specifically for being able to see the shape of an object in a pocket, but the word silhouette means

the outline or general shape of something

One way to use it could be:

Don't try to claim you forgot your wallet and can't pay; I can see the silhouette in your pocket!

Silhouette implies that you can see the outline of the object's shape very well and can discern what it is. You shouldn't use it to describe when you can tell someone has stuff in their pockets, but you have no idea what. For example, you wouldn't say:

I know you have something in your pocket, because I can see the silhouette.

In that case, bulge would be more appropriate.


There is a word that is used when the object in question is a gun. It applies in a situation when the gun is supposed to be concealed (hidden) under clothing, but other people can determine that the object under a person's clothing is in fact a gun. In that case, people say that the gun "prints" or "is printing". This is a big discussion item among civilians who carry concealed weapons in US, due to legal requirements. See these examples: "Can I get in trouble for my CC gun printing?", "I lose 10 lbs. and now my gun prints" and "Concealed Gun Printing?".


A seventy-five-cent word which you could use is adumbration, which is the noun form of the transitive verb adumbrate (ăd′əm-brāt′, ə-dŭm′-), which means

to outline; give a faint indication of

An exemplar, using the word:

I detected from his pocket the adumbration of a cellphone.


The presence of a cellphone was adumbrated in his slightly protruding pocket.

For an interesting video, I recommend this one.

  • 6
    I think you're overvaluing it. Jul 3 '16 at 21:22
  • 3
    Don't you mean he or she is "bestowing upon it an inflated pecuniary assignation"?
    – Ivan
    Jul 3 '16 at 23:29
  • @EdwinAshworth: To be honest, I'm not that familiar with the valuation of words. Back in the day, an impressive word was worth fifty cents. Fifty years later, I thought adumbration would've increased in value by at least 50 percent! Gosh, 50 years ago you could buy a couple loaves of bread for fifty cents; today, four bucks a pop! Don Jul 4 '16 at 0:54
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    Adumbration is foreshadowing. Any outlining sense is likely to be figurative. I could be convinced otherwise by evidence, however. Do you have any examples of usage to mean partially reveal physically?
    – deadrat
    Jul 4 '16 at 0:55
  • 1
    deadrat is right, adumbration really doesn't mean what the OP is asking for. It has much more to do with (light and) shadow, literal or figurative.
    – LarsH
    Jul 4 '16 at 3:21

Actually there is a good word for it. Printing, as in "her weapon was less concealed than she thought as it printed through her thin shirt"

  • As far as I know, this word is used only when the context is a concealed firearm. Jul 4 '16 at 19:57

May as well make my comment into an answer, considering "phrase-requests" is one of the tags in this question.

Is that your phone or are you just happy to see me? is a humorous modern adaptation of an old euphemism originating in the 30s:

enter image description here

The phrase is used in the context of a person's (usually a man's) pockets being so filled that they may be mistaken for something else, e.g. his private parts. Obviously it's been getting a resurgence in recent times due to the ungainly size of modern cellphones. The phrase works best when it's directed towards a male, but I suppose you could use it to a female as well for added laughs. Note: it's highly informal and may be offensive to some.

Modern usage of this phrase and its variants, according to tvtropes.org

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