cir·​cu·​late | \ˈsər-kyə-ˌlāt \
circulated; circulating

Definition of circulate 

intransitive verb

1 : to move in a circle, circuit, or orbit especially : to follow a course that returns to the starting point blood circulates through the body

2 : to pass from person to person or place to place: such as

a : to flow without obstruction

b : to become well-known or widespread rumors circulated through the town

c : to go from group to group at a social gathering

d : to come into the hands of readers specifically : to become sold or distributed

transitive verb

: to cause to circulate

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from circulate

circulatable \ -​ˌlā-​tə-​bəl \ adjective
circulative \ -​ˌlā-​tiv \ adjective
circulator \ -​ˌlā-​tər \ noun

Examples of circulate in a Sentence

Blood circulates through the body. Steam circulates in the pipes. A pump circulates the water through the filter. Rumors are circulating around town. The report circulated among the students. Stories were circulated about mismanagement. He is circulating a petition asking for a new election. She circulated among her guests.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Last week, for example, Kroger warned of a fake coupon that was circulating on social media offering $250 off Kroger purchases. Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press, "Amazon Prime Day: Gift cards, coupons and other scams to watch for," 14 July 2018 The McClatchy news service reported Wednesday that a left-wing outfit called Ultraviolet is circulating a six-page memo demanding that Senate Democrats investigate whether Mr. Kavanaugh knew about Mr. Kozinski’s behavior a quarter-century ago. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "The Smears Begin on Kavanaugh," 12 July 2018 Now that the personal information people once kept in closets and file cabinets circulates through vast corporate clouds, the old legal distinction has been erased. Nicholas Carr,, "Is Facebook the problem with Facebook, or is it us?," 10 July 2018 Rumors that the Trump administration would freeze payments were circulating late last week., "Trump administration takes another swipe at ‘Obamacare’," 8 July 2018 This is in line with the reasons that circulated when the story made the rounds in June. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Just Confirmed This Weird Royal Rule," 8 July 2018 Under that scenario, countries that rolled out vaccine while the H1N1 virus was actively circulating would have vaccinated some people who were actually infected at the time. Helen Branswell, STAT, "A stubborn medical mystery: Was pandemic flu vaccine tied to an increase in narcolepsy cases?," 5 July 2018 Gosnell’s trial also became a national talking point when photos of an empty press gallery began to circulate, and the filmmakers explored this phenomenon as well. Paul Bond, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Gosnell' Abortion Doctor Movie Gets Distribution Deal," 26 June 2018 Driehaus' staff drafted the resolution and circulated it to the two other commissioners on Friday., "Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel didn't sign gay pride proclamation," 22 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'circulate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of circulate

1603, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

History and Etymology for circulate

Latin circulatus, past participle of circulare, from circulus

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about circulate

Statistics for circulate

Last Updated

7 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for circulate

The first known use of circulate was in 1603

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for circulate


cir·​cu·​late | \ˈsər-kyə-ˌlāt \
circulated; circulating

Kids Definition of circulate

1 : to move around in a course Blood circulates in the body.

2 : to pass or be passed from place to place or from person to person The rumor circulated around the school.


intransitive verb
cir·​cu·​late | \ˈsər-kyə-ˌlāt \
circulated; circulating

Medical Definition of circulate 

: to flow or be propelled naturally through a closed system of channels (as blood vessels) blood circulates through the body

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on circulate

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


obstinately defiant of authority

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Autumn Words of the Day 2018

  • a-top-down-image-of-road-through-an-autumn-forest
  • Which is a synonym of fugacious?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!