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A new structural approach to shape recognition using attributed string matching with merging is proposed. After illustrating the disadvantages of conventional symbolic string matching using changes, deletions, and insertions, attributed strings are suggested for matching. Each attributed string is an ordered sequence of shape boundary primitives, each representing a basic boundary structural unit, line segment, with two types of numerical attributes, length and direction. A new type of primitive edit operation, called merge, is then introduced, which can be used to combine and then match any number of consecutive boundary primitives in one shape with those in another. The resulting attributed string matching with merging approach is shown useful for recognizing distorted shapes. Experimental results prove the feasibility of the proposed approach for general shape recognition. Some possible extensions of the approach are also included.