cir·​cum·​fer·​ence | \ sər-ˈkəm(p)-fərn(t)s How to pronounce circumference (audio) , sə-, -f(ə-)rən(t)s \

Definition of circumference

1 : the perimeter of a circle The circle measures 22 inches in circumference.
2 : the external boundary or surface of a figure or object : periphery from the center to the circumference of the sphere

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Other Words from circumference

circumferential \ sər-​ˌkəm(p)-​fə-​ˈren(t)-​shəl How to pronounce circumferential (audio) , sə-​ \ adjective

Synonyms for circumference


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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web Savarese said there were three keys to Monday's reopening: 1-Maintain physical distancing at all times, a 6-foot circumference around every child. Dennis Victory, al, "AHSAA officials, coaches address June 1 start date," 27 May 2020 Found in Montana in the 1950s, this matched non-typical set sports incredible mass, with six circumference measurements over 6 inches and one over 7 inches. Field & Stream, "10 of the Biggest Whitetail Shed Antlers Ever Found," 20 Apr. 2020 That's understandable, since the most basic definition of pi is the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle: Now for the important part. Rhett Allain, Wired, "Can You Calculate Pi by Drawing a Circle?," 13 Mar. 2020 Once a week, the mower rides the circumference of the lawn to make a specific edge-trimming pass, which lightens your weed whacking load. Roy Berendsohn, Popular Mechanics, "The Best Robot Mowers to Take Care of the Lawn for You," 17 Jan. 2020 Next, all the information is put online, with pictures of the tree, the most recent audit date, and the average circumference of each trunk. Natasha Frost, Quartz, "To fulfill their carbon neutral promises, airlines must be prepared to bear the costs," 15 Jan. 2020 This blade splits the difference between ripping and crosscutting by providing enough teeth to make a smooth crosscut, but angling them relative to the saw’s circumference to enable it to rip. Roy Berendsohn, Popular Mechanics, "The Best Circular Saw Blade for Every Cut," 1 Apr. 2020 By contrast, avoiding grains was linked with a higher BMI and waist circumference, despite the fact that it was also linked with consuming fewer calories. Samantha Cassetty, NBC News, "How to lose weight, according to a dietitian," 20 Feb. 2020 Applied correctly, a tourniquet provides direct pressure around the circumference of a limb. The Editors, Outdoor Life, "The Survival Gear You Want When Things Go Wrong in the Backcountry," 20 Feb. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'circumference.' 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 circumference

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for circumference

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

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Time Traveler for circumference

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for circumference

Last Updated

2 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Circumference.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for circumference


How to pronounce circumference (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of circumference

: the length of a line that goes around something or that makes a circle or other round shape
: the outer edge of a shape or area


cir·​cum·​fer·​ence | \ sər-ˈkəm-fə-rəns How to pronounce circumference (audio) , -fərns \

Kids Definition of circumference

1 : the line that goes around a circle
2 : a boundary line enclosing an area A fence marks the circumference of the yard.
3 : the distance around something

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