circumscribe

verb
cir·​cum·​scribe | \ ˈsər-kəm-ˌskrīb How to pronounce circumscribe (audio) \
circumscribed; circumscribing; circumscribes

Definition of circumscribe

transitive verb

1a : to constrict (see constrict sense 1) the range or activity of definitely and clearly his role was carefully circumscribed
b : to define or mark off carefully a study of plant species in a circumscribed area
2a : to draw a line around circumscribed the misspelled words
b : to surround by or as if by a boundary fields circumscribed by tall trees
3 : to construct or be constructed around (a geometrical figure) so as to touch as many points as possible a circle circumscribing a square

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Synonyms & Antonyms for circumscribe

Synonyms

Antonyms

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Choose the Right Synonym for circumscribe

limit, restrict, circumscribe, confine mean to set bounds for. limit implies setting a point or line (as in time, space, speed, or degree) beyond which something cannot or is not permitted to go. visits are limited to 30 minutes restrict suggests a narrowing or tightening or restraining within or as if within an encircling boundary. laws intended to restrict the freedom of the press circumscribe stresses a restriction on all sides and by clearly defined boundaries. the work of the investigating committee was carefully circumscribed confine suggests severe restraint and a resulting cramping, fettering, or hampering. our choices were confined by finances

Did You Know?

Circumscribe has a lot of relatives in English. Its Latin predecessor circumscribere (which roughly translates as "to draw a circle around") derives from circum-, meaning "circle," and scribere, meaning "to write or draw." Among the many descendants of circum- are circuit, circumcise, circumference, circumnavigate, circumspect, circumstance, and circumvent. Scribere gave us such words as scribe and scribble, as well as ascribe, describe, and transcribe, among others. Circumscribe was first recorded in the 14th century; it was originally spelled circumscrive, but the "circumscribe" spelling had also appeared by the end of the century.

Examples of circumscribe in a Sentence

The circle is circumscribed by a square. circumscribed his enthusiasm so as not to make the losing side feel worse
Recent Examples on the Web All those very much circumscribe their ability to thrive. Karin Wulf, Smithsonian Magazine, "How Black Women Brought Liberty to Washington in the 1800s," 5 Mar. 2021 Still, the careful effort to circumscribe the retaliatory operation risks leaving the impression that Biden opted for a political strike rather than a substantive punishment. Joel Gehrke, Washington Examiner, "Biden Syria strikes dodge difficult clash with Iran in Iraq," 26 Feb. 2021 This is the effect of her books, too, in which vast, inhuman forces circumscribe her characters’ most personal experiences. Alice Gregory, The New Yorker, "Shirley Hazzard and the Art of Outsized Intimacy," 9 Nov. 2020 SuperBalls became the darlings of physics professors, who took them to classes and circumscribed their bounces in equations and matrices at just the moment when cheap Zectron knockoffs were hitting gumball machines worldwide. New York Times, "How a Bouncy Ball Changed the Way I See the World," 3 Apr. 2020 Contempt for Congress flourishes alongside an increasingly common belief among both Republicans and Democrats that the presidency is the main engine of government, rather than an office whose power was deliberately circumscribed by the Constitution. Fergus M. Bordewich, Time, "'You Never Find Quiet Except Under a Tyranny.' Congress Has Always Been Partisan and That's a Good Thing.," 21 Feb. 2020 The election results will also affect the make-up of the committees, tightly circumscribed by Beijing, which every five years choose the chief executive. The Economist, "Hong Kong stares into the abyss amid growing violence," 21 Nov. 2019 But a mix of political hostility and security concerns stoked by Iran will circumscribe the activities of troops stationed in Iraq so tightly that such forces may be able to achieve little or nothing. The Economist, "After the assassination How Iran can respond to the killing of Qassem Suleimani," 9 Jan. 2020 Open houses are being eliminated, or at least circumscribed; brokers are doing FaceTime apartment tours for clients who are worried about being out. Joanne Kaufman, New York Times, "How Coronavirus Has Affected Real Estate," 17 Mar. 2020

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for circumscribe

Middle English circumscriven, from Latin circumscribere, from circum- + scribere to write, draw — more at scribe

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Time Traveler for circumscribe

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The first known use of circumscribe was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Circumscribe.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/circumscribe. Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for circumscribe

circumscribe

verb

English Language Learners Definition of circumscribe

formal : to limit the size or amount of (something)
technical : to draw a shape around (another shape)

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Comments on circumscribe

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