An automatic two-dimensional mesh generation scheme based on superelement decomposition technique is presented. The proposed approximate skeletal method (ASM) uses shape interrogation techniques on simplified geometric representation of the shape boundary to generate non-intersecting, topologically simple and mappable superelements. A recursive mesh generation scheme, meshing by successive decomposition, is introduced which uses edge-based hierarchical data structures to successively create parent-child edge relations and possible transitions based on the nodal spacing on these edges. Individual edge segments are obtained by transfinite mapping techniques. The use of a structured background grid is suggested to ensure full control of the mesh in case of transitions and grading. Finally, application to plane adaptive FEA problems demonstrates that the proposed mesh generator (MSD) results in good mesh grading and convergence characteristics. © 1995.