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 All three teams are familiar faces in Boston’s development circles., "As Harvard narrows bidders for Allston land, a focus on housing emerges - The Boston Globe," 12 Nov. 2019 Nineteen eighty-five was also the year Mr. Eppolito and Mr. Caracappa began their relationship with Mr. Casso’s circle. Ed Shanahan, New York Times, "Louis Eppolito, Police Officer Turned Mob Hit Man, Dies at 71," 7 Nov. 2019 So in the on-deck circle, fans will find San Jac opposing Beverly Hills at 4:30 in one semifinal match and Bondy meeting Thompson in the other 4:30 semifinal match. Robert Avery, Houston Chronicle, "Pasadena ISD’s heavy hitters ready to decide 8A’s volleyball supremacy," 21 Oct. 2019 With a man on second and the tying run in the on-deck circle, Corbin came through, striking out St. Louis’ 3-4 hitters, Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna, with sliders. Howard Fendrich, The Denver Post, "Wild-card Nationals head to World Series with sweep of Cards," 15 Oct. 2019 An attorney for an Orlando law firm, Sullivan is a fan and frequent flyer amid Orlando’s tasting-dinner circles. Amy Drew Thompson,, "Omakase in Orlando — a culinary adventure that requires surrender," 7 Oct. 2019 Eventually Power found her way into Obama’s circle, initially serving as an adviser to the campaign, then as a senior director in the National Security Council, and finally as U.N. ambassador. Brian Stewart, National Review, "The Education of a Cynic," 5 Oct. 2019 Other members of Trump’s inner circle have also promoted various accusations leveled against Biden that coincided with Giuliani’s efforts to dig up dirt on Biden. Ben Collins, NBC News, "Trump seized on a conspiracy theory called the 'insurance policy.' Now, it's at the center of an impeachment investigation.," 3 Oct. 2019 Unlike much of Trump’s inner circle, which viewed the GOP as the enemy, Parscale recognized that the party possessed critical political infrastructure that was impossible for Trump’s makeshift team to replicate. Peter Elkind, ProPublica, "The Myths of the “Genius” Behind Trump’s Reelection Campaign," 11 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Note: The Houston-area is defined in this poll as approximately a 60-mile radius circling the city, starting from downtown Houston. Jason Mcdaniel, Houston Chronicle, "Houston-area high school football final media poll," 13 Nov. 2019 Agronin, vice president of behavioral health and clinical research at Miami Jewish Health, calculated that his 20 years of making the commute add up to driving to the moon and circling it eight times. Cindy Krischer Goodman,, "Brutal commute? Don’t let it wreck your health," 26 Sep. 2019 Beador was standing in a large bowl with another bowl on her head, while staff from the Miraval circled her and performed motions that would allegedly help clear her energy field and expand her aura. Dave Quinn,, "RHOC: Shannon Beador Rushes to the ER After Kelly Dodd Hits Her on the Head with Mallet," 17 Sep. 2019 Barney comes into view behind him, and the man turns to face Barney, firing more shots while circling him., "McMinnville police identify man killed during daytime shooting," 1 July 2019 Suspicious person: Gretna Green Drive A woman reported at 6:40 p.m. Sept. 7 that a man in a vehicle appeared to be circling around four girls under the age of 12., "Unknown man asks 12-year-old girl to allow him into her back yard: Highland Heights Police Blotter," 12 Sep. 2019 Anna Barnett said the dragonflies darted and circled all afternoon at the Mohican Hills Golf Club in Jeromesville, Ohio. David Williams, CNN, "Weather radar picks up swarming dragonflies in 3 states," 12 Sep. 2019 Alexander said he's had this game circled on his calendar since the schedule came out in April. Fred Goodall,, "Struggling Buccaneers, 49ers hopeful for turnaround seasons," 7 Sep. 2019 While the North Shore game was understandably circled for the Katy football team and many observers, the Tigers will not have much time to celebrate their 24-21 victory. Marcus Gutierrez, Houston Chronicle, "Katy, Atascocita football produced a classic last fall," 4 Sep. 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

15 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Circle.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 21 November 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

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