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 circling (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 circler (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 Nearly two dozen people in Trump’s immediate circle had been infected. Dhruv Khullar, The New Yorker, "How Trump Became the Pro-Infection Candidate," 23 Oct. 2020 To register and learn more about the knitting circle and book discussion, email Amia Wheatley at cleveland, "Fairmount Temple cantor plans online concert; utility box wrap program completed in Shaker; more: Press Run," 23 Oct. 2020 The infections in the governor’s inner circle come as Covid-19 cases and hospitalization are surging in the state. Joseph De Avila, WSJ, "New Jersey Governor Was at Bar With Staffer Who Later Tested Positive for Covid-19," 22 Oct. 2020 To earn Trump's respect, Borat is sent back to America to deliver a monkey (who's somehow the country's ministry of culture and also a porno star) to someone in Trump’s inner circle: Vice President Mike Pence. Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, "Review: Sacha Baron Cohen's silly, scattershot 'Borat 2' takes aim at Trump, COVID," 21 Oct. 2020 But even within their own family and circle of friends, there are people supporting the president who don’t see him that way. Sydney Trent, Washington Post, "This interracial couple got engaged in Obama’s America. Then Trump took office.," 20 Oct. 2020 The game's lethal storm circle is tightening around the combat zone, a sleepy beach town with a bubblegum-pink ice cream parlor, and the handful of remaining squads are duking it out for survival. Tom Vanderbilt, Wired, "‘Wait, Sylvie’s Dad Plays?!’ The Joy of Fortnite Parenting," 19 Oct. 2020 The march will leave from Hudson Park, head up the Fox River Trail toward Village Hall and circle back to the original starting point. Beacon-news Staff,, "Oswego to hold kick-off event for entertainment venue project," 14 Oct. 2020 The Trump team’s rapid return to the campaign trail is extraordinary given Trump’s inner circle has been roiled by Covid-19 cases. Nicholas Florko, STAT, "In a campaign frenzy, Trump heads to Iowa — where Covid-19 is currently ‘out of control’," 13 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Above the observer aircraft, which can circle the flame and smoke for up to three hours at a time, a number of other technologies work at the strategic level. David Helvarg, National Geographic, "Fireball-dropping drones and the new technology helping fight fires," 16 Oct. 2020 Despite indulging fans’ obsessions with the Gilmore guys, Sherman-Palladino, however, makes a point at the very end of the show to circle back to the relationship that matters most. Natalie Morin,, "How Did Gilmore Girls Become About The Gilmore Boys?," 7 Oct. 2020 Margaret Powers-Fletcher, co–principal investigator at the UC vaccine site, noted that many misunderstandings circle around the Moderna vaccine. Jon Cohen, Science | AAAS, "On the road with Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine effort," 29 Sep. 2020 Road wins may be hard to come by, but circle this as a potential victory. Rainer Sabin, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State football 2020 schedule loaded with tough tests as Mel Tucker era begins," 19 Sep. 2020 Instead of having to circle around the block in search of a space, delivery drivers could reserve a spot in one of the nine temporary spots. Washington Post, "New parking technology aims to manage curb space virtually," 29 Aug. 2020 Participants will merge onto Interstate 275 from their gathering point and circle the highway loop in the middle or right lanes. Madeline Mitchell, The Enquirer, "More than 1,000 plan to attend Oct. 24 Cincinnati Trump parade on I-275," 9 Oct. 2020 The 49ers will scrounge up an ugly victory behind Nick Mullens, assuming the new turf at MetLife Stadium doesn’t circle back and finish off what’s left of their roster, which lost five players on that surface in last week’s win over the Jets. Mark Craig, Star Tribune, "Mark Craig's Week 3 picks against the spread," 24 Sep. 2020 Each sister chases a different life, until their stories eventually circle back to Louisiana and family in this compelling and thought-provoking novel. Rochelle M. O’gorman, The Christian Science Monitor, "A warm goodbye to summer with four great audiobooks," 31 Aug. 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

27 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Circle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Oct. 2020.

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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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Comments on circle

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