Oval Vs Ellipse: What Is The Difference Between Them?

Whether you need to state the difference between the two because they are similar, or if you have to face a geometrical problem that needs to be solved – you could know what an oval is and what an ellipse is. In this article, we will explore these terms and the differences between them. 

Essentially, the difference between the two is that an oval is a shape within a plane, which usually includes one axis of symmetry but is not a precise figure in mathematics. In contrast, an ellipse is a close curve that results from the intersection between a conic surface and a plane surface. 

The two could be confused, as both have circular, elongated shapes, yet their differences can be identified when one pauses to observe them. 

Ellipse: What You Should Know

An ellipse is formed by the intersections of the projective cone with the plane of projection. Additionally, the term belongs to technical conversations and results from a precise intersection. The movement of planets’ orbit around the sun is in an elliptical manner. 

An ellipse, however, is, in fact, a precise mathematical figure. Ellipses are mostly used in the fields of geometry, engineering, and physics. Elliptical rooms, because a sound emission from one end can converge onto the other side, have great echoes which facilitate acoustic activities. 

oval in the dictionary

Oval: What You Should Know

An oval “loosely” resembles the shape of an egg. Writing grammar or in casual conversations, the term “oval” is a generic term that could be any figure similar to an elongated circle. Although an oval isn’t necessarily a mathematical figure with a precise definition, one can realize its silhouette anywhere.

Oval Vs Ellipse: Origins

Oval derives from Latin “ovum,” meaning egg. The Etymology Online Dictionary shows it also derives from French “oval,” meaning “of or pertaining to an egg.” The term “oval” is used in a vague and general form when people attempt to reference a circular, elongated figure that is not a precise circle in itself. The connotation is that one end is bigger than the other. The three-dimensional form of an oval is called an “ovoid.”

On the other hand, according to The Etymology Online Dictionary, ellipse derives from Latin “ellipsis” and from Greek “elleipsis,” meaning “falling short or deficit.” The reason for imposing this quality on the ellipse is because the conic area of the cutting plane creates a smaller angle with the base than does the side of the cone. Therefore, a “falling short.”

When Should You Capitalize The Word “Oval” Or The Word “Ellipse”? 

The occasions where you should capitalize either term are: when they introduce an idea, which is at the beginning of a sentence or complete thought. Additionally, you should also capitalize them if they are proper nouns or adjectives derived from proper nouns. For example, literary works like paintings, songs, poems that include either term in their titles should be in capital letters. The reason for this is that they refer to a particular piece of work.

For a better understanding, in the following section, we will break down the rules of capitalization and how they apply to the words. 


When should you capitalize the word “oval” or the word “ellipse”? 

When either term is at the beginning of a sentence. 

This rule refers to the English grammar rule – where you should capitalize the first letter of the word that introduces the complete thought. 

For example: 

  • Oval became my mom’s favorite figure long ago. 
  • Oval eyes, especially green or light brown ones, I find very attractive. 
  • Oval faces in fashion have the most variety in jewelry and sunglasses. 
  • Ellipse, not a circle, is how the Earth orbits. 
  • Ellipses eccentricity refers to the ratio of the distance c between the center of the ellipse. 
  • Ellipse was introduced to their math class once they had seen what a cone was. 

When referring to a proper noun or adjectives formed from a proper noun.

  • The White House is a hot spot for tourists, mainly because it includes the Oval Office.  
  • Our friend group went last night to the Ellipse Gardens, a beautiful place near the blue lake.  
  • Luka’s literary club is reading “Oval Memory” this week. 
  • Mr. Niccita prepared the setting for his art exposition, “Ellipse Among Us.”

The Oval Office is a proper noun because it’s the United States president’s official office. Ellipse Gardens represents the official name of a garden location. For this reason, both terms should be capitalized; because they directly address a site. If they were to describe the shape, the type of office, or the shape or type of the garden, both terms would be in lowercase letters. 

The same way goes for titles of literary pieces and artworks. Since they are specific, they should be in capital letters as well.

Examples Sentences

  1. Miriam’s soccer team sat at an oval table with a checkered mantelpiece. 
  2. Oval Entryway” is one of my favorite songs. 
  3. Momma Jan made cookies for the bake sale. They’re in the oval baby blue Tupperware.  
  4. An oval is considered any curve resembling an egg. Funny. 
  5. Her necklace is made from Turkish strings and has a subtle green oval gem on the side. 
  6. Congratulations! You won the game; please place yourselves on the blue oval signal on the floor for a group picture. 
  7. Circles tend to bother Julienne; that is why she never circles exam answers; he rather encloses them in an oval shape. 
  8. Do you know the stones Amber and Larimar? Nadia’s grandma owns an oval keychain made of those stones. 
  9. So far, we haven’t seen a country’s national flag with tiny ovals on it.  
  10. Arantza Jimenez, the famous painter, was known for drawing huge ovals at the bottom of her canvases. 
  11.  An ellipse is the result of a casual intersection. 
  12. You could use a ruler to draw your ellipse the best way possible. 
  13. The ellipse has its own pathway; don’t try to change it. 
  14. Have you heard Ellipse (Piano Solo) by Travaglini? Amazing. 
  15. She could draw both irregular and traditional ellipses
  16. Jacob thought the ellipse was considered the only closed orbit. 
  17. Ellipse’s differentiation from a parabola was unknown to her before today’s class. 
  18. Dani, Sofia, and Jerome understood the explanation better when they saw the ellipse illustration on the computer. 
  19. That was, indeed, a very elongated ellipse you drew there. 

ellipse in blue and orange

Words That Shouldn’t Be In Capital Letters Within Titles

Most style guides have as a rule that one shouldn’t capitalize the following:

  • Prepositions (over, at, by, etc.)
  • Articles (the, a, an) 
  • Coordinating conjunctions (but, for, and, yet,)

Therefore, whenever writing a title that includes either the word “oval” or “ellipse,” make sure you understand the rules that apply in those cases so that your writing piece is grammatically correct. 


In conclusion, the main difference between an oval and an ellipse is that an oval is a shape – not mathematical, yet identifiable anywhere. On the other hand, an ellipse is a product figure, a close curve that results from the intersection between a conic surface and a plane surface. 

While the term “oval” is used in grammar to reference the generic shape similar to an egg, “ellipse” is a mathematical figure used in physics and engineering that requires precision and specific conditions to form. Understanding the difference between the terms “oval” and “ellipse” requires pausing to observe subtle qualities that make each standout. 

It’s good to remember to follow the rules of capitalization explained in this article. Additionally, one must also consider the words that shouldn’t be capitalized in a title according to style guides: articles, prepositions, and coordinating conjunctions. Understanding the difference between the terms “oval” and “ellipse” requires pausing to observe subtle qualities that make each stand out. 

By Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.