noun, often attributive
cir·​cle | \ˈsər-kəl \

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\-​k(ə-​)liŋ \

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 \-​k(ə-​)lər \ noun

Examples of circle in a Sentence


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.


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

The green makeup is best for patting over redness, the yellow makeup counteracts the darkness of under eye circles, and so on and so forth. SELF, "The 6 Best Color Correctors, According to Makeup Artists," 5 Dec. 2018 Wood cut from the property is whittled into beads and cut into circles (the brothers hint that wood will be featured more prominently in upcoming works). Olivia Martin, Town & Country, "Welcome to Santo Poco! The Ladd Brothers Evoke Childhood Magic at Cristina Grajales Gallery," 29 Nov. 2018 Last but not least, circle mirrors have been having a real moment in the last few years, especially in bathrooms and bedrooms. Alyssa Fiorentino, House Beautiful, "Poll: Which Pinterest Home Trends Do You Wish Would Die?," 5 Nov. 2018 Based on exhaustive research and countless interviews, this book circles around Belichick to tell his full story for the first time, and presents an incisive portrait of a mastermind at work. Fox News, "'Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time' by Ian O'Connor," 25 Sep. 2018 White has become a familiar presence in Burning Man circles, where she is known as Dr. Jones. Jonathon Keats, Discover Magazine, "The Vanishing City," 13 Aug. 2018 After all, one member of the 15-man team was Saud al-Qahtani, a top MBS aide who hasn’t yet been removed from the kingdom’s inner circle, though he has been banned from travel pending the results of the investigation. Alex Ward, Vox, "Saudi Arabia seeks the death penalty for 5 suspects over Khashoggi murder," 15 Nov. 2018 But the company did perform some clinical trials using a test known as the D15, in which subjects must arrange 15 colored circles in the order of the rainbow (that is, chromatically). Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Spanish scientists: EnChroma glasses won’t fix your color blindness," 6 Nov. 2018 Energy Tips Use Your Car Strategically If there’s an autonomous electric vehicle in your family or circle of friends, garage it at the home with the least predictable generation, where its battery can even out demand. Popular Mechanics Editors, Popular Mechanics, "The World of 2045," 14 Oct. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

If all goes according to plan, these bantam pioneers will get up-close looks at Proxima b, the possibly habitable planet that circles the sun's nearest star, the red dwarf Proxima Centauri. Mike Wall,, "Interstellar Travel Requires a Long-Term Approach (and Humans Are Too Impatient)," 10 Aug. 2018 Rumors of a split began circling in October 2017 when McGregor was spotted kissing Fargo co-star Mary Elizabeth Winstead, 33. Megan Stein, Country Living, "All the Details of Ewan McGregor's Complicated Relationships," 2 Aug. 2018 The best astronomical images of more distant planets like Uranus were only a few blurry pixels wide, and no one knew how many moons or rings were circling them. Dennis Overbye, New York Times, "Bradford Smith, Who Showed Postcards From Outer Space, Dies at 86," 11 July 2018 Instead of zooming by the divers, the orcas began playing with the stingray: circling it, swatting it, and grabbing it to pull it further into the water. National Geographic, "Orcas Slap, Kill, But Don't Eat Their Prey," 21 June 2018 Just 25 years ago, no one knew for sure whether the stars dotting our night skies had anything circling them that resembled planets, let alone one like Earth., "NASA Is About to Launch a New Planet-Hunter," 29 Mar. 2018 In the midst of all the Facebook drama, the young boy's story kept circling around the Internet and brought an outpouring of support. Hannah Orenstein, Seventeen, "What This Young Gay Boy Revealed Will Break Your Heart," 6 July 2015 So, something zipping at a third the speed of light is moving nearly 56,000 miles (90,000 km) per second — fast enough to circle Earth twice in that brief time. Elizabeth Howell,, "The Stuff Falling into This Black Hole Is Moving at Almost 56,000 Miles a Second!," 25 Sep. 2018 Armored vehicles carrying troops and police in antiriot gear patrolled the city center as an army helicopter circled overhead. Gabriele Steinhauser, WSJ, "Zimbabwe Calls in Military as Protests Erupt Over Vote Counting," 1 Aug. 2018

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


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


see circle entry 1

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Statistics for circle

Last Updated

13 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for circle

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

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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 \

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 \

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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More from Merriam-Webster on circle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for circle

Spanish Central: Translation of circle

Nglish: Translation of circle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of circle for Arabic Speakers

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