noun cir·cum·stance \ˈsər-kəm-ˌstan(t)s, -stən(t)s\

Definition of circumstance

  1. 1a :  a condition, fact, or event accompanying, conditioning, or determining another :  an essential or inevitable concomitant the weather is a circumstance to be taken into considerationb :  a subordinate or accessory (see 2accessory 2) fact or detail cost is a minor circumstance in this casec :  a piece of evidence that indicates the probability or improbability of an event (as a crime) the circumstance of the missing weapon told against him the circumstances suggest murder

  2. 2a :  the sum of essential and environmental factors (as of an event or situation) constant and rapid change in economic circumstance — G. M. Trevelyanb :  state of affairs :  eventuality open rebellion was a rare circumstance —often used in plural a victim of circumstancesc circumstances plural :  situation with regard to wealth he was in easy circumstances rose from difficult circumstances

  3. 3 :  attendant formalities and ritualistic display especially as contrasted with essential procedure pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war — William Shakespeare

  4. 4 :  an event that constitutes a detail (as of a narrative or course of events) considering each circumstance in turn

Examples of circumstance in a sentence

  1. I can't imagine a circumstance in which I would do that.

  2. The circumstances of his death are suspicious.

  3. She says that her client is a victim of circumstance and should not be blamed for the accident.

  4. He was a victim of circumstances.

Origin and Etymology of circumstance

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin circumstantia, from circumstant-, circumstans, present participle of circumstare to stand around, from circum- + stare to stand — more at stand

First Known Use: 13th century

Synonym Discussion of circumstance

occurrence, event, incident, episode, circumstance mean something that happens or takes place. occurrence may apply to a happening without intent, volition, or plan an encounter that was a chance occurrence. event usually implies an occurrence of some importance and frequently one having antecedent cause the events following the assassination. incident suggests an occurrence of brief duration or secondary importance a minor wartime incident. episode stresses the distinctiveness or apartness of an incident a brief romantic episode in a life devoted to work. circumstance implies a specific detail attending an action or event as part of its setting or background couldn't recall the exact circumstances.

CIRCUMSTANCE Defined for English Language Learners


noun cir·cum·stance \ˈsər-kəm-ˌstan(t)s, -stən(t)s\

Definition of circumstance for English Language Learners

  • : a condition or fact that affects a situation

  • circumstances : the way something happens : the specific details of an event

  • : an event or situation that you cannot control

CIRCUMSTANCE Defined for Kids


noun cir·cum·stance \ˈsər-kəm-ˌstans\

Definition of circumstance for Students

  1. 1 :  a fact or event that affects a situation Illness is the only circumstance that will excuse your absence.

  2. 2 circumstances plural :  conditions at a certain time or place Under the circumstances, I think we did well.

  3. 3 circumstances plural :  the way something happens Please explain the circumstances of the accident.

  4. 4 circumstances plural :  the conditions in which someone lives “When the Lord puts us in certain circumstances He doesn't mean for us to imagine them away.” — Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

  5. 5 :  an uncontrollable event or situation a victim of circumstance

Law Dictionary


noun cir·cum·stance

Legal Definition of circumstance

  1. 1a :  a condition, fact, or event accompanying, conditioning, or determining another must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistake — Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 9(b) b :  a piece of evidence that indicates the probability or improbability of an event a statement…offered to exculpate the accused is not admissible unless corroborating circumstances clearly indicate the trustworthiness of the statement — State v. Lopez, 764 P.2d 1111 (1988)

  2. 2 pl :  situation with regard to wealth the circumstances of the parties before the divorce

Seen and Heard

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a brief usually trivial fact

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