cir·​cum·​fer·​ence sər-ˈkəm(p)-fərn(t)s How to pronounce circumference (audio)
: the perimeter of a circle
The circle measures 22 inches in circumference.
: the external boundary or surface of a figure or object : periphery
from the center to the circumference of the sphere
circumferential adjective

Did you know?

Attempts have been made to measure the circumference of the earth since the time of Aristotle. The calculation that Columbus was relying on led him to think he could reach China by sailing west more quickly than by sailing east. But that measurement had calculated the earth's circumference as about a quarter too small, and the rest is history. Columbus wasn't the only one who got it wrong; many later attempts continued to produce different measurements for the earth's circumference—even though the Greeks had calculated it correctly way back in the 3rd century B.C.

Examples of circumference in a Sentence

What is the circumference of the Earth at the equator? The circle is 38 inches in circumference. The fence marks the circumference of the field.
Recent Examples on the Web The thick asparagus with nearly the circumference of a quarter possessed a meatier texture and unique earthy flavor. Cindy Carcamo, Los Angeles Times, 12 May 2024 Judging by the circumference of the bite wound, Borrego estimated that the shark that bit Wakeman was at least 7 feet. Meredith Deliso, ABC News, 9 May 2024 Its circumference would take up an entire studio apartment, and its billowing, black ruffles look a bit like a portal is opening to a dark dimension. Marci Robin, Allure, 7 May 2024 Separately, the volunteers—one man and one woman—then tried running around the wall of death, which was nearly 100 feet in circumference. Sarah Kuta, Smithsonian Magazine, 1 May 2024 Just give it a prince, and gather it in a ball larger than 2 inches in circumference. Dana Oland, Idaho Statesman, 8 Apr. 2024 And the women’s game’s smaller basketball — by one full inch, in circumference — was not introduced until 1984. Blair Kerkhoff, Kansas City Star, 7 Apr. 2024 Waist circumference, on the other hand, is a measurement of the waist that helps measure fat around the belly. Laura Hensley, Verywell Health, 2 Feb. 2024 The divisive style hugs the hips, offers the nonchalant coolness of baggier styles throughout the thighs, peaks in circumference around the knees, and regains its elegance by tapering off at the ankles. Alexis Bennett Parker, Vogue, 17 Nov. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'circumference.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Middle French & Latin; Middle French, from Latin circumferentia, from circumferre to carry around, from circum- + ferre to carry — more at bear

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of circumference was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near circumference

Cite this Entry

“Circumference.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


cir·​cum·​fer·​ence sə(r)-ˈkəm(p)-fərn(t)s How to pronounce circumference (audio)
: a line that goes around or encloses a circle
: the outer boundary of a figure or area
: the distance around something
the circumference of the earth at the equator
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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