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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Instead of multiple organizational logos, the school settled on a university cohesive logo with a gold W engulfed in a brown circle with a gold outline. Mia Berry, Detroit Free Press, 22 July 2021 After joining James' inner circle, Paul began working under Leon Rose at Creative Artists Agency. Gabrielle Chung,, 21 July 2021 The case against Barrack is a reminder of how deeply foreign interests penetrated Trump’s inner circle. Matt Hamilton, Los Angeles Times, 20 July 2021 Catcher Sean Murphy gloved it as Fletcher reached the dirt circle around home plate. Matt Kawahara, San Francisco Chronicle, 19 July 2021 One example, called sheaves, can be associated naturally to points on the Fargues-Fontaine curve the way tangent lines can be associated to points on a circle. Quanta Magazine, 19 July 2021 Roll remaining disk to a 14-inch circle, transferring to piece of parchment halfway through for ease of handling, then slide parchment (and dough) onto baking sheet and refrigerate until ready to use. Kate Merker, Good Housekeeping, 19 July 2021 How to sign up Teachers can sign up now at Kelly Tyko, USA TODAY, 18 July 2021 The pop star posted a series of candid messages on her Instagram Saturday, expressing her thoughts on the world's response to her conservatorship battle and specifically calling out members of her family and inner circle. Quinci Legardye, Harper's BAZAAR, 18 July 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Unlike orbital expeditions, the vehicles won't actually circle the planet, but at an altitude of more than 50 miles, passengers will experience a few minutes of weightlessness and be able to see the curvature of Earth before landing. NBC News, 9 July 2021 The trouble, some say, is in the details, and those details usually circle around ignorance and fear, money and power, regarding those last two, who has it, who can get it, who can control it, and that’s also understood. Gordon Monson, The Salt Lake Tribune, 6 July 2021 Here, walking paths circle around fountains, sculptures, elaborate flower beds, and lush grassy knolls. Evie Carrick, Travel + Leisure, 2 July 2021 Such a merger will rip apart the neutron star and create an explosion only if, before falling in, the neutron star can circle the black hole within a distance equal to its own radius—about 12 or 13 kilometers, Metzger explains. Adrian Cho, Science | AAAS, 29 June 2021 Polar orbiters circle Earth from north to south, taking imagery from all longitudes as the planet rotates. Paul Douglas, Star Tribune, 29 June 2021 Nakheel says all the rock and sand used to build the island could form a two-meter-high wall that would circle the globe three times. Bijan Hosseini, CNN, 21 June 2021 At its conclusion, marathoners had to circle Prospect Park four times. Matthew Futterman, New York Times, 15 June 2021 The Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, which opened in 1998, requires 190,000 miles of wire cabling—enough to circle the globe seven times. Tim Newcomb, Popular Mechanics, 9 June 2020

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.

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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

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Learn More About circle

Time Traveler for circle

Time Traveler

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

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Dictionary Entries Near circle



circle back

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Statistics for circle

Last Updated

24 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Circle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for circle



English Language Learners Definition of circle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a perfectly round shape : a line that is curved so that its ends meet and every point on the line is the same distance from the center
: a path that goes around a central point
: an arrangement of people or things that forms a circle



English Language Learners Definition of circle (Entry 2 of 2)

: to form a circle around (something)
: to draw a circle around (something)
: to move or go around (someone or something) in a 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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