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

Definition of circumstance 

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 consideration

b : a subordinate or accessory (see accessory entry 2 sense 2) fact or detail cost is a minor circumstance in this case

c : a piece of evidence that indicates the probability or improbability of an event (such as a crime) the circumstance of the missing weapon told against him the circumstances suggest murder

2a : the sum of essential and environmental factors (as of an event or situation) constant and rapid change in economic circumstance— G. M. Trevelyan

b : state of affairs : eventuality open rebellion was a rare circumstance often used in plural a victim of circumstances

c circumstances plural : situation with regard to wealth he was in easy circumstances rose from difficult circumstances

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

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

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Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of circumstance in a Sentence

I can't imagine a circumstance in which I would do that. The circumstances of his death are suspicious. She says that her client is a victim of circumstance and should not be blamed for the accident. He was a victim of circumstances.
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Recent Examples on the Web

And, so, Owens’ gold jacket — which, under normal circumstances, would be placed on his shoulders at Friday’s Gold Jacket dinner — will be mailed first thing Saturday morning. Dave Clark,, "Pro Football Hall of Fame won't introduce Terrell Owens at Gold Jacket Dinner or induction," 12 July 2018 Police haven’t described the circumstances surrounding Chelsea’s disappearance. Michael Williams,, "Marion authorities searching for missing 9-year-old girl last seen getting off school bus," 13 July 2018 The regulatory agency would not release details of the circumstances surrounding the arrest. NBC News, "Former NBA star Charles Oakley accused of gambling fraud at Las Vegas casino," 12 July 2018 But the exact circumstances surrounding each case are unclear. Emilie Ikeda, Fox News, "Migrant children being used as ‘commodity to circumvent a loophole,’ border agent says," 12 July 2018 New York City investigators are examining the circumstances surrounding the choking death of one inmate at the hands of another at a Rikers Island jail, law-enforcement officials said Tuesday. Corinne Ramey, WSJ, "NYC Investigative Agency Opens Probe Into Inmate’s Death on Rikers Island," 10 July 2018 The circumstances surrounding Archie's arrest kick off the drama of season 3 as the gang tries to #FreeArchie and Hiram Lodge continues to flesh out his plans to control not only Riverdale but the ever growing SoDale. Phillip Molnar,, "Comic Con 2018: Here's your Sunday schedule," 8 July 2018 Buy Photo Authorities have identified the man who was killed when a SEPTA bus slammed into a North Philadelphia home, and say the circumstances of the deadly crash remains under investigation. Katherine Nails,, "Police ID man killed when SEPTA bus crashed into home, investigation continues," 6 July 2018 Similar circumstances will be surrounding this lunation, so be sure to track your eclipse story by exploring both the past and future. Aliza Kelly Faragher, Allure, "What July's Virgo Horoscope Means for You," 29 June 2018

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

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for 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

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More Definitions for circumstance



English Language Learners Definition of circumstance

: 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


cir·cum·stance | \ˈsər-kəm-ˌstans \

Kids Definition of circumstance

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

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

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

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 : an uncontrollable event or situation a victim of circumstance



Legal Definition of circumstance 

1a : a condition, fact, or event accompanying, conditioning, or determining another must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistakeFederal 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 statementState v. Lopez, 764 P.2d 1111 (1988)

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

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Comments on circumstance

What made you want to look up circumstance? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


not any or not one

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