noun, often attributive
cir·​cle | \ ˈsər-kəl How to pronounce circle (audio) \

Definition of circle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : ring, halo
b : a closed plane (see plane entry 6 sense 2b) curve every point of which is equidistant (see equidistant sense 1) from a fixed point within the curve
c : the plane surface bounded by such a curve
2 archaic : the orbit of a celestial body
3 : something in the form of a circle or section of a circle: such as
a : diadem
b : an instrument of astronomical observation the graduated (see graduated sense 2a) limb of which consists of an entire circle
c : a balcony or tier of seats in a theater
d : a circle formed on the surface of a sphere by the intersection of a plane that passes through it circle of latitude
e : rotary sense 2 Traffic slowed down around the circle.
4 : an area of action or influence : realm within the circle of probability
5a : cycle, round the wheel has come full circle
b : fallacious reasoning in which something to be demonstrated is covertly assumed
6 : a group of persons sharing a common interest or revolving about a common center the sewing circle of her church family circle the gossip of court circles political, social, and literary circles
7 : a territorial or administrative division or district The province is divided into nine circles.
8 : a curving side street lived on Kimberly Circle
9 : a circular course or path The children ran in circles around the tree. The conversation kept going in circles, and nothing got accomplished.


circled; circling\ ˈsər-​k(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce circle (audio) \

Definition of circle (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to enclose in or as if in a circle The teacher circled the misspelled words.
2 : to move or revolve around satellites circling the earth

intransitive verb

1a : to move in or as if in a circle The airplane circled around over the airport.
b : circulate thy name shall circle round the gaping throng— Lord Byron
c : to circle around before making an attack sharks circling in the water
2 : to describe or extend in a circle the lighthouse sent out its slow steady circling beam— R. O. Bowen

Illustration of circle

Illustration of circle


circle 1b: AB diameter; C center; CD, CA, CB radii; EKF arc on chord EF; EFKL (area) segment on chord EF; ACD (area) sector; GH secant; TPM tangent at point P; EKFBPDA circumference

In the meaning defined above

Other Words from circle


circler \ ˈsər-​k(ə-​)lər How to pronounce circle (audio) \ noun

Examples of circle in a Sentence

Noun She drew a circle around the correct answer. We formed a circle around the campfire. He looked old and tired, with dark circles under his eyes. She has a large circle of friends. She is well-known in banking circles. Verb He circled his arms around his wife's waist. His arms circled around his wife's waist. She circled the correct answer. The pilot circled the airport before landing. The halfback circled to the left. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Put another way, the political spectrum may not be a line, but rather a circle. Petula Dvorak, Washington Post, 19 Sep. 2022 To frame your fried egg inside whole grain toast, simply cut a hole using a circle cookie cutter. Sheena Chihak, Better Homes & Gardens, 19 Sep. 2022 Missy was one of eight students who were shot when a 14-year-old boy walked into the school on December 1, 1997, and opened fire in the lobby where students had gathered for a prayer circle. Nouran Salahieh, CNN, 18 Sep. 2022 She was connected to a sponsor circle in Irvine, Calif., through HIAS, which requires a six-month commitment. Julie Watson,, 18 Sep. 2022 On the outside, Cartier doesn’t have the same look as some of the men in Raq’s past (i.e. Symphony, played by Toby Sandeman), but his suave demeanor and almost seamless integration into the Thomas family’s inner circle puts him on everyone’s radar. Breanna Bell, Variety, 17 Sep. 2022 To the south, across the Mexican border, loomed another luminous half-circle from the lights of Nogales. Joshua Sokol, Scientific American, 16 Sep. 2022 When Bateman called from the Coconino County jail on Tuesday afternoon, a group who had been waiting at that home gathered in a tight circle to hear his voice over the phone and to show their support. Jessica Miller, The Salt Lake Tribune, 15 Sep. 2022 More time in the Seahawks’ shooting circle, coupled with crisp and timely passing, translated to South River penalties. Taylor Lyons, Baltimore Sun, 15 Sep. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Lower satellites circle the planet in 90 to 120 minutes. Time, 16 Sep. 2022 Both teams will circle around at midfield before the game for a prayer. Richard Obert, The Arizona Republic, 29 Apr. 2022 However, as is the case here, the two stars circle each other in their own orbits. Joshua Hawkins, BGR, 2 Sep. 2022 The Targaryens sit atop the Iron Throne (which looks even cooler), dragons circle the city without citizens cowering in terror, and the 7 Kingdoms once again find themselves on the edge of a succession war. Josh St. Clair, Men's Health, 21 Aug. 2022 All these questions circle back to former president Trump and his political stature out of office. Craig Gilbert, Journal Sentinel, 6 Aug. 2022 Vultures circle a cow carcass on a farm on the road to the Apyterewa territory. Washington Post, 27 July 2022 Though no one lives close to the Valley of 10,000 Smokes, many thousands of people circle the globe in jet aircraft. Ned Rozell, Anchorage Daily News, 16 July 2022 Accessible only by boat on its own island, birds circle its steepled tops before resting in the crumbling church and graveyard built on one side. Rooksana Hossenally, Forbes, 25 June 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'circle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of circle


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for circle

Noun and Verb

Middle English cercle, from Anglo-French, from Latin circulus, diminutive of circus circle, circus, from or akin to Greek krikos, kirkos ring; akin to Old English hring ring — more at ring

Learn More About circle

Time Traveler for circle

Time Traveler

The first known use of circle was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near circle



circle back

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Statistics for circle

Last Updated

22 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Circle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for circle


cir·​cle | \ ˈsər-kəl How to pronounce circle (audio) \

Kids Definition of circle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a line that is curved so that its ends meet and every point on the line is the same distance from the center
2 : something in the form of a circle or part of a circle We gathered in a circle around the fireplace.
3 : cycle entry 1 sense 2, round The wheel has come full circle.
4 : a group of people sharing a common interest a reading circle a circle of friends


circled; circling

Kids Definition of circle (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to form or draw a circle around Circle the correct answers.
2 : to move or revolve around Satellites circle the earth.
3 : to move in or as if in a circle Vultures circled overhead.


cir·​cle | \ ˈsər-kəl How to pronounce circle (audio) \

Medical Definition of circle

1a : a closed plane curve every point of which is equidistant from a fixed point within the curve
b : the plane surface bounded by such a curve
2 : something (as an anatomical part) in the form of a circle or section of a circle an arterial circle — see circle of willis

More from Merriam-Webster on circle

Nglish: Translation of circle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of circle for Arabic Speakers


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