circumstance

noun cir·cum·stance \ ˈsər-kᵊm-ˌstan(t)s , -stən(t)s \
Updated on: 10 Nov 2017

Definition of circumstance

1 a : 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 2accessory 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
2 a : 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

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.

Recent Examples of circumstance from the Web

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.

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

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

circumstance

noun

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

circumstance

noun cir·cum·stance \ ˈsər-kəm-ˌstans \

Definition of circumstance for Students

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

Law Dictionary

circumstance

noun cir·cum·stance

legal Definition of circumstance

1 a : 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 plural : situation with regard to wealth
  • the circumstances of the parties before the divorce


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