Quantcast
Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary

circumstance

play
noun cir·cum·stance \ˈsər-kəm-ˌstan(t)s, -stən(t)s\

Simple Definition of circumstance

  • : a condition or fact that affects a situation

  • circumstances : the way something happens : the specific details of an event

  • : an event or situation that you cannot control

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of circumstance

  1. 1 a :  a condition, fact, or event accompanying, conditioning, or determining another :  an essential or inevitable concomitant <the weather is a circumstance to be taken into consideration> b :  a subordinate or accessory fact or detail <cost is a minor circumstance in this case> c :  a piece of evidence that indicates the probability or improbability of an event (as a crime) <the circumstance of the missing weapon told against him> <the circumstances suggest murder>

  2. 2 a :  the sum of essential and environmental factors (as of an event or situation) <constant and rapid change in economic circumstance — G. M. Trevelyan> b :  state of affairs :  eventuality <open rebellion was a rare circumstance> —often used in plural <a victim of circumstances> c plural :  situation with regard to wealth <he was in easy circumstances> <rose from difficult circumstances>

  3. 3 :  attendant formalities and ceremonial <pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war — Shakespeare>

  4. 4 :  an event that constitutes a detail (as of a narrative or course of events) <considering each circumstance in turn>

Examples of circumstance in a sentence

  1. I can't imagine a circumstance in which I would do that.

  2. The circumstances of his death are suspicious.

  3. She says that her client is a victim of circumstance and should not be blamed for the accident.

  4. He was a victim of circumstances.



Origin of circumstance

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin circumstantia, from circumstant-, circumstans, present participle of circumstare to stand around, from circum- + stare to stand — more at stand


First Known Use: 13th century

Synonym Discussion of circumstance

occurrence, event, incident, episode, circumstance mean something that happens or takes place. occurrence may apply to a happening without intent, volition, or plan <an encounter that was a chance occurrence>. event usually implies an occurrence of some importance and frequently one having antecedent cause <the events following the assassination>. incident suggests an occurrence of brief duration or secondary importance <a minor wartime incident>. episode stresses the distinctiveness or apartness of an incident <a brief romantic episode in a life devoted to work>. circumstance implies a specific detail attending an action or event as part of its setting or background <couldn't recall the exact circumstances>.


CIRCUMSTANCE Defined for Kids

circumstance

play
noun cir·cum·stance \ˈsər-kəm-ˌstans\

Definition of circumstance for Students

  1. 1 :  a fact or event that affects a situation <Illness is the only circumstance that will excuse your absence.>

  2. 2 circumstances plural :  conditions at a certain time or place <Under the circumstances, I think we did well.>

  3. 3 circumstances plural :  the way something happens <Please explain the circumstances of the accident.>

  4. 4 circumstances plural :  the conditions in which someone lives <“When the Lord puts us in certain circumstances He doesn't mean for us to imagine them away.” — Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables>

  5. 5 :  an uncontrollable event or situation <a victim of circumstance>




Law Dictionary

circumstance

noun cir·cum·stance

Legal Definition of circumstance

  1. 1a :  a condition, fact, or event accompanying, conditioning, or determining another <must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake — Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 9(b)> b :  a piece of evidence that indicates the probability or improbability of an event <a statement…offered to exculpate the accused is not admissible unless corroborating circumstances clearly indicate the trustworthiness of the statement — State v. Lopez, 764 P.2d 1111 (1988)>

  2. 2 pl :  situation with regard to wealth <the circumstances of the parties before the divorce>





Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up circumstance? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to eat gluttonously or ravenously

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

image1926873504

Which of the following best describes an easily irritated person?

gregarious flashy tetchy superficial
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ