What is the word for "the space left when a shape is removed from something", like for example, the gingerbread-man shape left in the dough after the gingerbread-man has been cut out of it? Its not the "counterfoil", or "the negative"....I seem to remember there being a specific word for it, what is it?

11 Answers 11


It's simply a cutout.

Definition of cutout:

1: something cut out or off from something else; also: the space or hole left after cutting


Disambiguation may well be necessary.

| improve this answer | |
  • 10
    Interesting that the term refers to both the cutout and the cutout. :) – Lawrence Mar 16 '18 at 2:08

You could say "the 'negative space' left by the cookie cutter" -- this seems to be fairly common usage (google ngrams) and is more specific than terms like "cutout" or "void".

A visual example of usage is here: wikipedia


| improve this answer | |
  • Negative Space is indeed an established term, but usually only among graphic designers and other visual artists. – Philipp Mar 16 '18 at 17:30
  • +1 I actually just walked out of a meeting where someone (a psychologist, not an artist or graphic designer) used this term in reference to a photograph, so it may not be that specialized or obscure. (I don't know whether it would be my first thought for cookie cutter dough, though.) You might want to consider adding a definition, for clarity's sake. – 1006a Mar 16 '18 at 17:44
  • I understand it as jargon from the visual arts, but it is important enough inside those fields to have come up in several introductory classes I've taken (both technique classes and appreciation classes), so I would guess that it is reasonably broadly understood. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Mar 16 '18 at 19:29

Void may work, albeit it is a bit more... poetic you may say.

Definition: Noun: A completely empty space. Adjective: completely empty.

In your cookie example:

The void left in the dough by my cookie cutter.

| improve this answer | |

If a shape is cut out, then what is left is a shaped space. The further description of the space depends on what was cut out :

A Mango Shaped Space

Porter Square Books

Durrington Walls - an oval shaped space


Car shaped space

The Nature of the Mind

the three body cavities - a horseshoe shaped space

Trilaminar Embryo

Note : Due to the relative obscurity of the wording, some of these references are buried in the links I have provided. I guarantee that they are there, but they require a little searching to pinpoint them.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Don't worry about phrases being buried on web pages. They can be located quite easily with <ctrl-F> searches (or equivalent) from the web browser. +1 for the answer. – Lawrence Mar 16 '18 at 2:08
  • 1
    @Lawrence Neat. I didn't know that was possible. Thank you. – Nigel J Mar 16 '18 at 2:12
  • I usually see phrases like this hyphenated, e.g. car-shaped space. Pretty much a matter of style, though. – alex_d Mar 16 '18 at 13:19
  • @alex_d Yes, I was uncertain which to choose when I wrote them down. – Nigel J Mar 16 '18 at 13:20

I think you may use outline:

the main shape or edge of something, without any details.

Cambridge Dictionary

| improve this answer | |

According to OLD, Imprint is:

A mark or outline made by pressing something on to a softer substance.

Example sentence (from the same link):

‘he made imprints of the keys in bars of soap’

In case of imprint, you should think of it like a stamp. If your gingerbread man uses some pattern that it imprints in the dough, this is the word your looking for. A similar example is a waffle iron, it presses a certain pattern on the food, that pattern may be called an imprint.

| improve this answer | |

Form (noun) The visible shape or configuration of something.

  • Nelly cut out her gingerbread man from the dough, leaving a form shaped exactly like her cookie (which she thought was hilarious).
| improve this answer | |
  • A form is an object, not the lack of one. In your answer, the gingerbread man is the form that was cut from the dough leaving the hole. – Stan Mar 16 '18 at 14:20
  • @Stan ~ A form can be an abstract noun, which isn't an object. "...the 'thing' might be an intangible concept – which means it is an abstract form of noun..." grammar.yourdictionary.com/parts-of-speech/nouns/… – Bread Mar 16 '18 at 21:14

Ghost would also apply, particularly in this example.

| improve this answer | |
  • 6
    And why would you think that ? – Nigel J Mar 16 '18 at 14:19
  • 2
    Welcome to English Language & Usage! Could you explain why you believe the word is suitable? Perhaps you could cite a definition or usage example that suggests it fits the asker's needs. – Toby Speight Mar 16 '18 at 15:22

In paleontology this is called a "steincrone" or "steinkrone". Could not find a google link to this though. My spelling may be wrong as it is a German word. Sounds cool anyway.

| improve this answer | |
  • Hard to believe this is widely known or accurate without a reference on the entire internet. – jimm101 Mar 16 '18 at 16:13
  • 1
    I was wrong. For a good time, google("steinkern fossil"). This is a fossil formed by minerals that fill a mold left by another fossil and after the original mold disappears. – Elmer T. Jones Mar 16 '18 at 16:36
  • @ElmerT.Jones - If your answer's wrong, delete it. – AndyT Mar 16 '18 at 16:41
  • OK, it's called a "mold" or "imprint". – Elmer T. Jones Mar 16 '18 at 16:45
  • Consider updating your answer to correct the spelling. A quick Google search reveals this word has been borrowed into English and even has a dictionary entry in English: merriam-webster.com/dictionary/steinkern – MetaEd Mar 16 '18 at 18:35

While it might not be the specific word you are looking for, I liked Laurel's answer but it was only in the comments. I also liked Nigel's answer. For the widest understanding I would use "a gingerbread-man shaped hole was left behind in the dough"

Although I fear you want a single word, I would use cavity:

Definition of cavity    
plural cavities 

1 : an unfilled space within a mass; especially : a hollowed-out space 


The gingerbread-man cavity

| improve this answer | |

How about Trace.

a mark, object, or other indication of the existence or passing of something.

Source: Google Dictionary

| improve this answer | |

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.