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 graduate entry 2 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 Around one alcove the kitchen’s orange walls have small dark circles that suggest art work. Judy Rose, Detroit Free Press, "$1.1M Shelby Township home is one of the most visually striking in SE Michigan," 23 Nov. 2019 Should Shannon prevail as the inaugural Mannelly Award winner, there would be a full-circle element to the ceremony on Dec. 14 in Lake Bluff, Ill., outside Chicago. Mike Berardino, Indianapolis Star, "Long snapper John Shannon lives up to his Notre Dame bloodlines," 22 Nov. 2019 In the last few years a lot of fighters have died inside that squared circle. Tim Darnell, ajc, "Boxing great Floyd Mayweather coming out of retirement," 22 Nov. 2019 Barry almost made a complete circle (really more of the shape of the number 6) by cutting through Arkansas and heading east to Columbus, Ohio. Joe Mario Pedersen,, "Hurricane season 2019 closes this week, and Florida avoided the worst," 22 Nov. 2019 Take the microbiome, which has been becoming increasingly popular in science, health and wellness circles in the past few years. Tobias Rees, Quartz, "Why tech companies need philosophers—and how I convinced Google to hire them," 22 Nov. 2019 But the committee has not heard from people in Trump’s most inner circle. Alana Abramson, Time, "Donald Trump Says He Wants a Trial. Here's What Needs to Happen in the House Impeachment Inquiry Before He Gets One," 22 Nov. 2019 The stands were mostly empty, which may turn out to be good preparation for his full-circle moment considering how many empty seats there have been so far in Madrid. Christopher Clarey, New York Times, "At the Heart of Serbia’s Tennis Success Story," 20 Nov. 2019 There are conservative circles out of South Korea right now talking about potentially developing their own nuclear weapons, or at least bringing tactical nuclear weapons back. CBS News, "Transcript: North Korea expert Sue Mi Terry talks with Michael Morell on "Intelligence Matters"," 20 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Terrell Lewis could be heard audibly disappointed by missing the initial hit before circling around and assisting as Christian Harris held Hill in place. Michael Casagrande |, al, "Extra observations, some context to key moments in Alabama win at Mississippi State," 18 Nov. 2019 Meanwhile, a 33-year-old shopping with her infant at the Walmart in Vadnais Heights reported a man, later identified as Lewis, was staring at her and circling around her several times on Oct. 10, according to a criminal complaint. Mara H. Gottfried, Twin Cities, "Charges: Stranger grabbed, pinched buttocks of 5 women in Vadnais Heights, Woodbury," 14 Nov. 2019 Main sources of this radiation are cosmic rays, solar particle events, and belts of protons and electrons circling at the edge of the Earth’s magnetic field known as Van Allen belts. Jacek Krywko, Ars Technica, "Space-grade CPUs: How do you send more computing power into space?," 11 Nov. 2019 Danny looked outside, minutes later, and saw two helicopters circling the P H Food plant. Charles Bethea, The New Yorker, "After ICE Came to Morton, Mississippi," 1 Nov. 2019 At the same time, Stuart evokes an era of languid afternoons on the lanai: mai tai in hand, ceiling fan circling slowly overhead. Nancy Moreland,, "Old Florida is alive and well in sunny Stuart, where the past won’t be forgotten," 29 Oct. 2019 The shark severed one man’s right foot and then circled back and mauled the other’s right calf, Queensland state Ambulance Service spokeswoman Tracey Eastwick reported. Washington Post, "Shark bites 2 British men on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef," 29 Oct. 2019 And instead of everything being circled around one person, the power will be with the people. Mark Leibovich, New York Times, "Donald Trump’s Gift to Mitt Romney: Relevance," 26 Oct. 2019 Small Ship Line #6: PONANT Fine French cuisine, Hermès bath products, and personalized service come standard on PONANT's six small, globe-circling ships. Stefanie Waldek, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Best Cruise Lines in the World: 2019 Readers' Choice Awards," 7 Oct. 2019

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

29 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Circle.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 12 December 2019.

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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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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).


a period of high artistic development

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