cir·​cum·​fer·​ence | \sər-ˈkəm(p)-fərn(t)s, 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 \-​ˌkəm(p)-​fə-​ˈren(t)-​shəl \ 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The course circles the entire circumference of Mont Blanc, the tallest peak in the Alps and Western Europe, according to National Geographic. Jenny Mccoy, SELF, "5 Things to Know About the 106-Mile Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc Race," 4 Sep. 2018 And while acne patches have long been available, Acropass’s formula claims to penetrate the surface to infuse faster-working anti-inflammatory agents and dramatically reduce the circumference and life of a spot. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "This New Acne Patch Can Make Breakouts Vanish Overnight," 4 Aug. 2018 The cremated remains from Stonehenge were first excavated by Colonel William Hawley in the 1920s from a network of 56 pits dotted around the inner circumference and ditch of the monument, known as Aubrey Holes. Fox News, "Stonehenge mystery solved, says breakthrough scientific study," 3 Aug. 2018 The dramatic scallop of the sweetheart neckline was repeated through the circumference of the hem and sweeping court train. Sue Strachan,, "Krewe of Dorians bal masque continues a tradition," 10 Feb. 2018 If using individual ramekins, cut 6 circles 1 inch larger in circumference than ramekins. Tiffani Thiessen, Good Housekeeping, "Creamy Chicken Potpies," 9 Oct. 2018 The cavity inside its trunks — with an outer circumference of more than 80 feet — reportedly served as one of the continent’s first post offices. Rachel Nuwer, New York Times, "Last March of the ‘Wooden Elephants’: Africa’s Ancient Baobabs Are Dying," 12 June 2018 Methuselah Tree: This is the biggest redwood on the north Peninsula, with a circumference of 44 feet. Tom Stienstra, San Francisco Chronicle, "Sunday getaway to El Corte de Madera Creek Preserve," 20 May 2018 The little island with an 800-mile circumference is an extremely interesting place to visit, and is considerably different from most other tourist attractions. Rich Westcott,, "A trip to Iceland is one you'll never forget," 13 Apr. 2018

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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Last Updated

2 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for circumference

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

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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, -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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Comments on circumference

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


to enclose within walls

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