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In this paper a special class of functions called smoothlets is presented. They are defined as a generalization of wedgelets and second-order wedgelets. Unlike all known geometrical methods used in adaptive image approximation, smoothlets are continuous functions. They can adapt to location, size, rotation, curvature, and smoothness of edges. The M-term approximation of smoothlets is O(M-3) . In this paper, an image compression scheme based on the smoothlet transform is also presented. From the theoretical considerations and experiments, both described in the paper, it follows that smoothlets can assure better image compression than the other known adaptive geometrical methods, namely, wedgelets and second-order wedgelets.