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Ellipse vs. Oval: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on January 29, 2024
An ellipse is a geometric shape with two focal points where the sum of distances to these foci is constant, while an oval is a broader term for any egg-like or elongated circular shape.

Key Differences

An ellipse is a specific type of oval defined mathematically, with two focal points. In an ellipse, the sum of the distances from any point on the curve to the two focal points is constant. An oval, on the other hand, is a more general term for any elongated round shape, often used in everyday language to describe shapes similar to an ellipse but without specific mathematical properties.
An ellipse always has two axes of symmetry - the major and minor axes. Ovals may or may not have such symmetry and do not necessarily have specific focal points.
Ellipses have specific applications in astronomy, physics, and engineering due to their mathematical properties. Ovals are more commonly referenced in general descriptions, such as in design, art, and daily objects like mirrors or tracks.
Drawing an ellipse can involve mathematical techniques like using string and pins (foci), or using an ellipsograph. An oval can be drawn more freely, without needing to adhere to strict geometric rules.
The term 'ellipse' is typically used in more technical or mathematical contexts, while 'oval' is used in everyday language for a variety of elongated round shapes.

Comparison Chart

Geometric Definition

A curve with two focal points, constant sum of distances to foci
General term for elongated circular shapes

Symmetry and Foci

Two axes of symmetry, two specific foci
May or may not have symmetry, no specific foci


Astronomy, physics, engineering
General description, art, design


Mathematical techniques like string and pins
Freely drawn, no strict geometric rules

Usage Context

Technical, mathematical contexts
Everyday language, broader use

Ellipse and Oval Definitions


A closed curve with a symmetrical shape.
An ellipse is often seen in architectural designs.


A rounded shape, broader than a circle.
The racetrack had an oval design.


A geometric figure with constant sum of distances to two foci.
In geometry, an ellipse can be constructed using string and pins.


An elongated circular shape resembling an egg.
The mirror in the hallway had an elegant oval shape.


A curve on a plane surrounding two focal points.
The ellipse is a special case of the conic sections.


Any shape resembling a flattened circle.
The table was designed with an oval top.


A shape derived from intersecting a cone with a plane.
The cross-section of a cone can form an ellipse.


A curve resembling a stretched circle.
The oval outline was used in the company's logo.


A regular oval shape with two focal points.
The orbits of planets around the sun are elliptical.


A shape with no specific mathematical definition.
She preferred oval frames for her glasses.


A conic section whose plane is not parallel to the axis, base, or generatrix of the intersected cone.


Resembling an egg in shape.


The locus of points for which the sum of the distances from each point to two fixed points is equal.


Resembling an ellipse in shape; elliptical.




(geometry) A closed curve, the locus of a point such that the sum of the distances from that point to two other fixed points (called the foci of the ellipse) is constant; equivalently, the conic section that is the intersection of a cone with a plane that does not intersect the base of the cone. Category:en:Curves


(grammar) To remove from a phrase a word which is grammatically needed, but which is clearly understood without having to be stated.
In B's response to A's question:- (A: Would you like to go out?, B: I'd love to), the words that are ellipsed are go out.


An oval or oblong figure, bounded by a regular curve, which corresponds to an oblique projection of a circle, or an oblique section of a cone through its opposite sides. The greatest diameter of the ellipse is the major axis, and the least diameter is the minor axis. See Conic section, under Conic, and cf. Focus.


Omission. See Ellipsis.


The elliptical orbit of a planet.
The Sun flies forward to his brother Sun;The dark Earth follows wheeled in her ellipse.


A closed plane curve resulting from the intersection of a circular cone and a plane cutting completely through it;
The sums of the distances from the foci to any point on an ellipse is constant


What is an ellipse?

A geometric shape with two focal points and constant sum of distances to these points.

Are all ellipses ovals?

Yes, an ellipse is a specific type of oval.

How is an ellipse mathematically defined?

By two focal points where the sum of distances from any point on the ellipse to the foci is constant.

Can an oval have foci like an ellipse?

No, ovals do not have specific foci or mathematical properties like an ellipse.

What symmetry does an ellipse have?

Two axes of symmetry – the major and minor axes.

In what contexts are ovals commonly used?

In everyday language for describing shapes like tracks, designs, and objects.

What is an oval?

A general term for elongated circular shapes, often egg-like.

How do you draw an ellipse?

Using pins and a string or an ellipsograph.

Is the shape of an egg an ellipse?

It's more accurately described as an oval.

Are oval tracks in sports elliptical?

They are generally ovals but not perfect ellipses.

How are ellipses used in engineering?

In designing mechanical parts and structures for optimal stress distribution.

What are ellipses used for in astronomy?

To describe the orbits of planets and celestial bodies.

Are ovals used in art and design?

Yes, widely used for their aesthetic appeal.

What is the difference in the construction of ellipses and ovals?

Ellipses require precise mathematical construction, while ovals can be drawn more freely.

Are all ovals ellipses?

No, not all ovals meet the specific criteria of an ellipse.

Is it easy to draw an oval?

Yes, as it doesn't require strict geometric methods.

Do ovals always have symmetry?

Not necessarily, ovals can vary in symmetry.

What is the significance of an oval in logo design?

It's often chosen for its pleasing and balanced appearance.

Can an ellipse be used in architecture?

Yes, for its aesthetic and structural properties.

Why are planetary orbits elliptical and not oval?

Due to the gravitational forces and laws of motion, which result in elliptical orbits.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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