Both appear in my dictionary (CC loaded by pleco). The first definition reads:

“Form, shape, type, style, pattern”. No examples.

The second reads:

“Form, shape, pattern, morphology”. One example:


The native pleco dictionary (PLC) contains only 形態。


Evidence for the use of 型態:

Chinese Wikipedia 生活型態

Chinese Wikipedia 意識型態


I also found this question about exactly the same thing in Chinese with a couple of answers I have trouble understanding. The answer I understand best seems to suggest 形態 is applicable to material things,while 型態 is more general. This seems hard to reconcile with my dictionary defining both as shape, but at least agrees with the occurrences of 型態 I provided.

  • dictionaries have more examples for 形态 although jukuu has 100 samples for each bkrs: 形态 1) 形状姿态。 唐.张彦远.历代名画记.卷九.唐朝上:「尤善鹰鹘鸡雉,尽其形态。」 2) 事物在某一条件范围下所呈现的模式。 如:「思想形态」。 3) 词的语法形式变化。(事物的形状或表现) 社会经济形态 social-economic formation; economic formation of society 意识形态 ideological form 以更固定的形态 in a more permanent shape 形态生动多样 vivid and great in style 富士山形态优美。 Mt. Fuji has a graceful shape. 两只形态奇异的石狮子守卫着入口处。 The two stone lions, of grotesque shape, guard the entrance. 意识形态ideology 型态 事物的表现形式。 如:「意识型态。」可持续生产和消费型态的专题研讨会
    – user6065
    Oct 29, 2017 at 19:34
  • 1
    Cannot find 型态 in dictionaries in simplified Chinese. Don't know about usage in traditional Chinese.
    – fefe
    Oct 30, 2017 at 1:02
  • Why the downvote? I cited sources for both and user6065 added many more!
    – Ludi
    Oct 30, 2017 at 14:30
  • @user6065 Has jukuu stopped working? I never find anything! jukuu.com/search.php?q=型态
    – Ludi
    Dec 14, 2017 at 17:08
  • 1
    same problem here: most of the time there is the message 403 Forbidden nginx/1.6.2
    – user6065
    Dec 15, 2017 at 0:23

2 Answers 2


We could firstly define the differences between 形 and 型. While both defining as shape, I will say 型 is more toward 'shaped' in a sense:

形 focus on the description of appearance, like a circle (圆形), square (正方形) which are mostly tangible, where 型 refers to standardizing of form / shape / pattern.

For example, 人的形態 - the form of a man - describe the appearance / gesture of a man. Same goes for 社會經濟形態 - description of the economic form of a society.

資料型態 - data type - the types of data defined such as integer / float / etc.

Also note that 形 can be used as a verb which has various meaning depends on usage.



【形态】xínɡtài 名词 ①事物的形状或表现:意识~|观念~。②生物体外部的形状。③词的内部变化形式,包括构词形式和词形变化的形式。

【型态】(not included)

I guess 型态 is a ill-formed variant of 形态. Since 形 and 型 are pretty similar, it's no surprise that many people mistakenly write 形态 as 型态.

Many other dictionaries include the word 型态. However, considering that 现代汉语词典 is the authoritative Chinese dictionary in Mainland China, I suggest that you use 形态 instead of 型态 all the time if you are communicating with Mainland Chinese.

For the case of Taiwan, it seems that 型态 is used quite often with other meanings such as 资料型态. That's another story, I guess.

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