verb cir·cum·scribe \ˈsər-kəm-ˌskrīb\

: to limit the size or amount of (something)

: to draw a shape around (another shape)

Full Definition of CIRCUMSCRIBE

transitive verb
a :  to constrict the range or activity of definitely and clearly <his role was carefully circumscribed>
b :  to define or mark off carefully <a study of plant species in a circumscribed area>
a :  to draw a line around
b :  to surround by or as if by a boundary <fields circumscribed by tall trees>
:  to construct or be constructed around (a geometrical figure) so as to touch as many points as possible


  1. The circle is circumscribed by a square.
  2. <circumscribed his enthusiasm so as not to make the losing side feel worse>


Middle English circumscriven, from Latin circumscribere, from circum- + scribere to write, draw — more at scribe
First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of CIRCUMSCRIBE

limit, restrict, circumscribe, confine mean to set bounds for. limit implies setting a point or line (as in time, space, speed, or degree) beyond which something cannot or is not permitted to go <visits are limited to 30 minutes>. restrict suggests a narrowing or tightening or restraining within or as if within an encircling boundary <laws intended to restrict the freedom of the press>. circumscribe stresses a restriction on all sides and by clearly defined boundaries <the work of the investigating committee was carefully circumscribed>. confine suggests severe restraint and a resulting cramping, fettering, or hampering <our choices were confined by finances>.



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