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

My leg, from toe to hip, turned black and yellow and eventually swelled to 24 inches, more than twice its normal circumference. Kyle Dickman, Outside Online, "A Rattle with Death in Yosemite," 20 June 2018 The original Vivoactive 3 had a metal circle and side-swipe features on the left side of its case—both of those are gone now, replaced by a seamless black case that appears to bleed off its circumference. Valentina Palladino, Ars Technica, "Garmin’s new Vivoactive 3 Music is the best competitor to the Apple Watch," 13 June 2018 Its maximum circumferences, however, are the same (28 1/2 and 21 1/4). Stephen Holder, Indianapolis Star, "Andrew Luck throws a football. We repeat, Andrew Luck is throwing a football.," 12 June 2018 Along the circumference are buttons to navigate up and down display options, to go back to previous pages, to start a workout, and to turn on or off the display's backlight. Valentina Palladino, Ars Technica, "Garmin Forerunner 645 Music review: The high price of tunes on a runner’s tool," 16 Mar. 2018 Pi represents the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Eli Meixler, Time, "Today Is the 30th Anniversary of Pi Day. Here's What You Should Know About the Irrational Number," 14 Mar. 2018 Balls have been produced to exacting specifications — 9 to 9.25 inches in circumference and 5 to 5.25 ounces in weight — for more than a century. Kirk Kenney,, "Why are home runs being hit at record pace this season?," 16 July 2017 Through the sharing of new ideas the ancients identified the atom, measured the circumference of the earth, grasped the environmental benefits of vegetarianism. Bettany Hughes, New York Times, "How Christians Destroyed the Ancient World," 8 June 2018 Friends of Balboa Park has raised $200,000 to put a 16-foot-wide raised platform around a quarter of the tree’s circumference — about 90 feet in length. Jeanette Steele,, "Balboa Park's No. 1 tree may get viewing platform," 1 Feb. 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

23 Sep 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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