circumscribe

verb
cir·cum·scribe | \ˈsər-kᵊm-ˌskrīb \
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

Of all his political gifts and tools, Obama has always been most hesitant to wield raw power, circumscribing the options available to him by dismissing the bluntest tools as either immediately or eventually counterproductive. Gabriel Debenedetti, Daily Intelligencer, "Where Is Barack Obama?," 24 June 2018 The jurisdiction and power of the special counsel is highly circumscribed and subject to Justice Department approval. Neal Katyal, Time, "President Trump Is Wrong. The Mueller Probe Is Constitutional," 7 June 2018 Nevertheless, under the anti-Jewish policies of the Nazis, his father’s academic career became circumscribed. Martin Weil, Washington Post, "Gustav Born, British medical researcher who studied blood platelets, dies at 96," 5 May 2018 The Associated Press reported that by the late ’90s, the EPA had discovered the air in a nearby town contained dangerous levels of nearly a dozen pollutants — and this was three miles from the factories, whereas Africatown is circumscribed by them. Nick Tabor, Daily Intelligencer, "Africatown and the 21st-Century Stain of Slavery," 2 May 2018 Opponents of the law said that those large lists, combined with the law’s vague provisions on defamation and punishment, are likely to circumscribe debates over wide swaths of modern Chinese history. Chun Han Wong, WSJ, "China Guards Its Historical Heroes With New Law," 27 Apr. 2018 The occasional small overlap or gap in the thin lines that circumscribe the squares are almost the only uncontrolled expressiveness in pictures as studiously devoid of spontaneous gestures as an engineering diagram. Roberta Smith, Will Heinrich, Martha Schwendener And Jason Farago, New York Times, "What to See in New York Art Galleries This Week," 29 Mar. 2018 Instead of circumscribing corporations within moats, Zscaler employs omnipresent sentries. Robert Hackett, Fortune, "What to Know About 2018's First Big Tech IPO," 17 Mar. 2018 Those latter interventions have tested Rex Tillerson’s nerves, and Kelly has long been inclined to circumscribe Kushner’s role. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump Reluctant to Overrule FBI, Give Kushner Security Clearance," 26 Feb. 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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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

: to limit the size or amount of (something)

: to draw a shape around (another shape)

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