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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

The evidence used in Berry’s prosecution was largely circumstantial — no eyewitnesses, forensic evidence, or videos. Chris Palmer,, "8½ years after Philly man was accused of killing stepfather and 64-year-old woman, jury clears him," 15 June 2018 The researchers urged additional research into the psychological and circumstantial factors that discourage most people from using mobile phones while driving. Fredrick Kunkle, Washington Post, "Female drivers are more likely to use mobile phones behind the wheel, study finds," 10 July 2018 In fact, there was not one piece of evidence, circumstantial or physical, linking McIntyre to the crime. Michael Harriot, The Root, "‘Evilest White Woman on Earth’: The Criminal Injustice of Terra Morehead," 6 June 2018 Federal prosecutor Gary Sussman said the testimony of the government's experts is key to the case because the indictment largely rests on circumstantial and forensic evidence. Maxine Bernstein,, "Indicted FBI agent spends personal savings on forensic experts to challenge indictment," 21 May 2018 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

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.

See More

First Known Use of circumstantial

1600, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for circumstantial

see circumstance

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about circumstantial

Share circumstantial

Statistics for circumstantial

Last Updated

9 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for circumstantial

The first known use of circumstantial was in 1600

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for circumstantial



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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


something that serves to warn or remind

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Autumn Words of the Day 2018

  • a-top-down-image-of-road-through-an-autumn-forest
  • Which is a synonym of fugacious?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!