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 Those limitations are particularly acute for Esther, a solitary and hardworking African-American seamstress whose options are circumscribed by poverty, prejudice and the secondary status of women in 1905 New York. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Review: Lynn Nottage’s ‘Intimate Apparel’ gets an earnest, solidly acted revival at New Village Arts," 30 Sep. 2019 Real-life pairings are usually circumscribed by a person’s social sphere, and the chances of meeting a total stranger are low. The Economist, "Facebook has unleashed a new dating service," 12 Sep. 2019 In parts of rural eastern Afghanistan, meanwhile, several officials this week described the Islamic State as having been circumscribed but not defeated. Washington Post, "The U.S. is nearing a deal with the Taliban. But another major threat looms in Afghanistan: the Islamic State.," 20 Aug. 2019 But the country is now seriously facing the prospect that even if Republican hegemony is broken in the 2018 and 2020 elections, the entrenched five-vote Republican majority will sharply circumscribe their ability to govern. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation will delegitimize the Supreme Court — and that’s good," 5 Oct. 2018 Among the many happy consequences, freedom of religion, which had been repressed or circumscribed under communism, was restored. The Economist, "Church leaders in central and eastern Europe remain surprisingly loth to condemn their old adversary," 11 Aug. 2019 Assuming that a circumference C exists, circumscribed to the dark field DF, verify that the straight line r is external to such circumference. Quanta Magazine, "An Italian Cosmologist Who Wanders in Dante’s Dark Wood," 13 Nov. 2018 The doc’s consistent theme is the ways in which labels categorize — and, sometimes, circumscribe — members of the LGBTQ community. Harry Windsor, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Queer Japan': Film Review | Outfest 2019," 22 July 2019 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

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

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for circumscribe

Last Updated

15 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Circumscribe.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/circumscribing. Accessed 22 November 2019.

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More Definitions for circumscribe

circumscribe

verb
How to pronounce circumscribe (audio)

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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