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


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

In Greater Cincinnati circles, one name has been the most notable – Norwood's Marc Edwards. Shelby Dermer,, "Cincinnati's Mr. Football curse: Will 2019 be the year it comes to an end?," 8 July 2019 But Zaitchik, a rising star in the Gotham new-musical circles, has penned a gorgeous new score created, like everything else in this show, from whole cloth. Chris Jones,, "Review: Wise 'Darling Grenadine’ at Lincolnshire undercut by its production, casting," 5 July 2019 Women who get misty at the mention of Alber Elbaz’s name—and there are many in fashion circles—have been waiting for the designer’s comeback since he was pushed out at Lanvin in 2015. Alexandra Marshall, WSJ, "Alber Elbaz Made Almost 100 Designs for Tod’s," 2 July 2019 There’s little consensus in horse racing circles about the cause of the deaths at Santa Anita. Ron Kroichick,, "Horse racing grapples with heavy issues in wake of Hollendorfer ban," 29 June 2019 There’s been speculation in some media circles that Dewayne Dedmon, Thabo Sefolosha and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are being eyed by the Spurs. Nick Talbot,, "Writers’ Roundtable: How is NBA Free Agency going to play out?," 29 June 2019 The tunnel discussion is increasingly percolating in transit circles., "Metro will study MAX tunnel underneath downtown Portland and Willamette River," 28 June 2019 The Thursday moves by Householder, who during his political career has developed a reputation in Statehouse circles as a shrewd negotiator, may be his attempt to increase pressure on the Senate. Andrew J. Tobias,, "On brink of legal deadline, Ohio budget talks might be bogging down," 27 June 2019 The initiative is the latest push by activists and civil society organizations to improve diversity in academic and think tank circles and government leadership positions. Alex Ward, Vox, "15 Democratic candidates pledge to seek gender parity in their national security teams," 26 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Turkey vultures circled overhead, riding the thermals against a backdrop of bright blue Colorado sky. Sarah Kuta, The Know, "What are via ferratas and why is Colorado so crazy about them?," 2 July 2019 The idea for the large balloon reflector grew out of Walker’s work on the Stratospheric Terahertz Observatory, a one-meter telescope attached to a high-altitude balloon that circled Antarctica in the upper atmosphere for several weeks in 2012. Daniel Oberhaus, WIRED, "New Space Telescopes Could Look Like Giant Beach Balls," 11 June 2019 In the exhibition’s film, the camera pans the faces of the girls circling Hawkesworth in the Mombasa schoolyard—some pensive, some smiling. Sara Morosi, WSJ, "Jamie Hawkesworth’s New Show Embraces Chance," 30 Nov. 2018 The characters and the plot keep circling in place. Charles Mcnulty,, "Review: Amanda Peet's 'Our Very Own Carlin McCullough': A tennis prodigy learns life's score," 29 June 2018 Threats of military action also circled Qatar in the early days of the crisis. Jon Gambrell, Fox News, "Analysis: Qatar crisis widens fissures among US allies," 4 June 2018 Wilkins, driving another car, circled back to pick up Meadows and return to Dallas. Gary Jacobson, Dallas News, "BBQ Posse journeys into heart of Texas to find perfect plate," 17 June 2019 His North Carolina upbringing is at his core, and every question circles back to his roots. Amanda Garrity, Good Housekeeping, "I Spent the Day in the Kitchen With QVC's David Venable," 20 Nov. 2018 This weekend, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry returned to Australia, circling back to Sydney to take part in the Invictus Games closing ceremony. Caroline Hallemann, Town & Country, "Meghan Markle Just Gave a Moving Speech About Being Welcomed Into the Invictus Games Family," 27 Oct. 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

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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Statistics for circle

Last Updated

12 Jul 2019

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 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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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

Comments on circle

What made you want to look up circle? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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