cir·cum·stan·tial | \ ˌsər-kᵊm-ˈstan(t)-shəl \

Definition of circumstantial 

1 : belonging to, consisting in, or dependent on circumstances a circumstantial case circumstantial factors circumstantial evidence

2 : pertinent but not essential : incidental Revolutions usually happen for both structural and circumstantial reasons. —A. M. S. Aly

3 : marked by careful attention to detail : abounding in factual details a circumstantial account of the fight

4 : ceremonial the circumstantial splendor of the coronation

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Other words from circumstantial

circumstantiality \-ˌstan(t)-shē-ˈa-lə-tē \ noun
circumstantially \-ˈstan(t)-sh(ə-)lē \ adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for circumstantial

circumstantial, minute, particular, detailed mean dealing with a matter fully and usually point by point. circumstantial implies fullness of detail that fixes something described in time and space. a circumstantial account of our visit minute implies close and searching attention to the smallest details. a minute examination of a fossil particular implies a precise attention to every detail. a particular description of the scene of the crime detailed stresses abundance or completeness of detail. a detailed analysis of the event

Examples of circumstantial in a Sentence

The evidence is purely circumstantial. The case against him is circumstantial. a circumstantial account of the meeting
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Recent Examples on the Web

But because the target is circumstantial and sometimes arbitrary, one’s sense of fairness is violated. Thomas Chatterton Williams, New York Times, "Adrian Piper’s Show at MoMA is the Largest Ever for a Living Artist. Why Hasn’t She Seen It?," 27 June 2018 Yet there were enough circumstantial clues — as well as Beckstead’s relentless appeals to U.S. military officials — to open a field investigation. Brian Murphy, Washington Post, "How one man’s obsession led to the discovery of a lost WWII pilot," 30 June 2018 That was kind of circumstantial on Jennifer’s part. Ed Masley, azcentral, "Sugarland's Kristian Bush on his reunion with Jennifer Nettles and what makes their partnership work," 22 May 2018 And there is substantial, albeit circumstantial, evidence to suggest that the risk of such an overreaction is raised by a lack of exposure to infections and microbes in the first year of a child’s life. The Economist, "Germ-free children may be more prone to leukaemia," 24 May 2018 At this point, your boyfriend is probably terrified that your affection for him was circumstantial. Blair Braverman, Outside Online, "So You Charge Harder Than Your Partner," 16 May 2018 Any evidence for their existence would be circumstantial: for example, scars in the radiation permeating space because of a past collision with a neighboring universe. Marcelo Gleiser, Scientific American, "How Much Can We Know?," 8 May 2018 And after complaints from the Jenkins campaign, Morrisey’s put out a paper providing at best a shaky circumstantial case that Jenkins might have voted for Clinton in the 2008 West Virginia primary–but might not have done so at all. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "West Virginia Republicans Lie About Each Other’s Imaginary Hillary-mania," 2 May 2018 Other evidence also cast doubt on the confession, which the FBI failed to record or sustain with circumstantial proof. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "‘Trust but Verify’ Applies to the FBI," 13 Apr. 2018

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

1600, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for circumstantial

see circumstance

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Last Updated

31 Jul 2018

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Time Traveler for circumstantial

The first known use of circumstantial was in 1600

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English Language Learners Definition of circumstantial

law : based on information which suggests that something is true but does not prove that it is true

: providing or including the details of a particular situation or event


cir·cum·stan·tial | \ ˌsər-kəm-ˈstan-chəl \

Legal Definition of circumstantial 

: belonging to, consisting in, or dependent on circumstances

Other words from circumstantial

circumstantially adverb

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Comments on circumstantial

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


the setting in which something occurs

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