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

cap, confine, hold down, limit, restrict

Antonyms

exceed

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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

In reality, his fiction is by no means circumscribed by its focus on a particular historical moment. Tim Parks, Harper's magazine, "Behind the High Walls," 10 Feb. 2019 But this was a prime minister who, more than any other, had circumscribed herself, by having quite unnecessarily called, and effectively lost, a general election she had confidently expected to win convincingly. Martin Farr, Quartz, "Donald Trump’s state visit is a sorry sign of the times for the UK," 4 June 2019 There are times when private actors and places can be treated like government ones, such that the First Amendment can circumscribe that company’s practices. Emily Stewart, Vox, "Trump keeps complaining about bias on Twitter — but what can he do about it? 8 experts weigh in.," 23 Aug. 2018 But appellate courts might establish new constraints on executive power that circumscribe a President’s response to future crises. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Trump’s Presidential Emergency," 10 Jan. 2019 State media reports of major events tend to be tightly circumscribed by the Communist leadership. Kwanwoo Jun, WSJ, "Tariff Truce With China Eases ‘Cold War’ Fears," 2 Dec. 2018 Our visit to sculptor Dylan Lewis’s 14-acre destination sculpture gardens, which are circumscribed impossibly by the Stellenbosch mountains on one side and the vineyards of Cape Winelands on the other with Table Mountain off in the distance. Pilar Guzmán, Condé Nast Traveler, "South Africa’s Other Big Five," 20 Dec. 2018 The reason: The resistance Mr. Trump encountered from Congress, business, his own advisers and U.S. trading partners circumscribed his leverage and may again in the future. Greg Ip, WSJ, "New Nafta Shows Limits of ‘America First’," 3 Oct. 2018 As a child, her life was circumscribed by gymnastics practice and Islamic prep school, realms where discipline and accountability were sacrosanct. Reggie Ugwu, New York Times, "SZA Almost Quit Music. Now She’s a Grammys Contender.," 23 Jan. 2018

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

14th 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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Last Updated

28 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for circumscribe

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

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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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