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 In Washington, Trump and others in his circle came down with COVID-19 yet continued to gather indoors without masks. Los Angeles Times, "Some Asian Americans and immigrants wore masks readily. In a brutal election year, it made them heroes, targets, prophets," 26 Dec. 2020 In his own circle, Harbour is now proudly involved in the lives of Allen's two daughters — Marnie Rose, 7 and Ethel Mary, 9. Nicholas Rice,, "David Harbour Opens Up About Married Life with 'Deeply Kind' Wife Lily Allen: She's 'Incredible'," 18 Dec. 2020 Jessica Ross, a 23-year-old Black woman in Atlanta, said she — and many other Black women in her circle — are nervous to take COVID-19 vaccine. Nada Hassanein, USA TODAY, "There's skepticism in minority communities about COVID-19 vaccines. Here's how women of color can help swing the momentum.," 14 Dec. 2020 But those indications were quickly followed by reports that the history described above left many in Biden's planning circle wary of welcoming Birx, viewing her credibility as severely compromised. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "For Biden administration, Fauci’s in, but Birx is not," 23 Dec. 2020 Working from the center out, roll the dough into as thin of a circle as possible — or a thickness of 1/8 inch. Tribune News Service, cleveland, "Gather your household for an age-old Norwegian tradition this holiday season: Making lefse," 22 Dec. 2020 The video, which was released late Monday, showed the officer exit the driver’s side door and circle behind a white police SUV. Fox News, "Pennsylvania police releases surveillance video of shooting that injured cop," 22 Dec. 2020 The Earth's orbit around the sun isn't a perfect circle, so neither the earliest sunset nor the latest sunrise actually fall on the solstice. Katie Peek, Popular Science, "What is a solstice? And other questions about the shortest day of the year, answered," 21 Dec. 2020 But the idea that Trump would try to install Powell in a position to investigate the outcome sent shock waves through the president’s circle. Maggie Haberman And Zolan Kanno-youngs,, "Trump considering naming Sidney Powell a special counsel investigating fraud allegations," 19 Dec. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb By sundown the pig would be brought into the house, and everyone would circle my uncle who would be breaking the pig down. Los Angeles Times, "Latinx Files: Our best Nochebuena stories," 24 Dec. 2020 These newborn half-LECAs swim toward one another, then circle each other. Ilana E. Strauss, The Atlantic, "The Sex Lives of Single-Celled Organisms," 11 Nov. 2020 Besides beating Baylor and trying to salvage a season gone sideways, an overwhelmed Herman must worry if his players will circle up and play to the crowd every week. Kevin Sherrington, Dallas News, "In what was supposed to be a breakout season, Tom Herman’s walking a thin line between solidarity and tradition," 17 Oct. 2020 But this spring, as the world began to circle the drain, food delivery apps thrived. Aarian Marshall, Wired, "DoorDash Shows Delivery Can Be Profitable—in a Pandemic," 18 Nov. 2020 How many times had the otherwise perspicacious kid failed to circle the yellow bird on the math worksheet. Ben Lerner, Harper's Magazine, "The Grove," 27 Oct. 2020 Fans began to circle as the artist strutted past the House of Trophies & Awards. Los Angeles Times, "Bad Bunny, with a bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, gets Boyle Heights trending on Twitter," 23 Oct. 2020 Ice-skaters will be able to circle the 95-foot-tall masterpiece beginning Nov. 12. Dallas News, "Holiday fun heads to the Galleria," 22 Oct. 2020 One game to circle: the first meeting between North Dakota vs. Minnesota Duluth on Dec. 10. Randy Johnson, Star Tribune, "At long last, college hockey is back in Minnesota," 19 Nov. 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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Time Traveler for circle

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for circle

Last Updated

13 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Circle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for circle


How to pronounce circle (audio)

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

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