cir·​cum·​vent ˌsər-kəm-ˈvent How to pronounce circumvent (audio)
circumvented; circumventing; circumvents

transitive verb

: to manage to get around especially by ingenuity or stratagem
the setup circumvented the red tapeLynne McTaggart
circumvent a problem
: to hem in
Circumvented by the enemy, he had to surrender.
: to make a circuit around
the river circumvented
circumvention noun

Did you know?

The Circular History of Circumvent

If you've ever felt as if someone was circling around the rules, you have an idea of the origins of circumvent—it derives from the Latin circum, meaning "circle," and ventus, the past participle of the Latin verb venire, meaning "to come." The earliest uses of circumvent referred to a tactic of hunting or warfare in which the quarry or enemy was encircled and captured. Today, however, circumvent more often suggests avoidance than entrapment; it typically means to "get around" someone or something.

Example Sentences

Los Angeles was the beachhead for the sushi invasion, attracting many Japanese chefs eager to make their fortunes and to circumvent the grueling 10-year apprenticeship required in their homeland. Jay McInerney, New York Times Book Review, 10 June 2007 … Rondon and Lyra paddled to the right side, where they found a channel that circumvented the worst part of the rapids. Candice Millard, The River of Doubt, 2005 His appreciation of this finer side of life is circumvented by a cynicism that he tells me is common to Eastern Europeans. Lynne Tillman, Motion Sickness, 1991 The thirty-six-hour workweek established by the garment-industry code was circumvented by having the workers punch out at five P.M., leave by the back door (their usual entrance), then return by the front door and work until eleven P.M. without punching the clock. Melissa Hield, Speaking For Ourselves, (1977) 1984 We circumvented the problem by using a different program. He found a way to circumvent the law. See More
Recent Examples on the Web Mike McLusky and his network of criminals aren’t the only ones who can circumvent the rules for their selfish gain. Keith Nelson, Men's Health, 14 Jan. 2023 Skeptics also note that tech-savvy teens can circumvent the rules by using a virtual private network. Jacob Carpenter, Fortune, 4 Jan. 2023 Some are applying for philanthropic funding or preordering building materials before their deals close to circumvent supply-chain delays. Rebecca Picciotto, WSJ, 3 Sep. 2022 The latest version of the Tor browser, 11.5, which was released last week, introduces new features to automatically try to help people circumvent censorship based on their location. Wired, 29 July 2022 Another thing to keep in mind is that these private citizen enforcement provisions were enacted to circumvent Roe. Tom Spiggle, Forbes, 5 July 2022 Chin-Hong said China had strict testing measures in place too, but COVID-19 was still able to spread rapidly within the country, and travelers from China could circumvent the U.S. rule by flying to another country first. Mary Kekatos, ABC News, 31 Dec. 2022 In this way, an inquiry into a specific episode broadened to encompass a topic of still greater significance: Had the President sought to undermine and circumvent the American system of electoral democracy? David Remnick, The New Yorker, 22 Dec. 2022 The exemption was fought over by Poland and Lithuania, which firmly opposed a weakening of the sanctions regime and believed a broader loosening of restrictions could allow Russian officials to circumvent EU sanctions. Laurence Norman, WSJ, 16 Dec. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'circumvent.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Latin circumventus, past participle of circumvenire, from circum- + venire to come — more at come

First Known Use

1539, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

Time Traveler
The first known use of circumvent was in 1539


Dictionary Entries Near circumvent

Cite this Entry

“Circumvent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition


cir·​cum·​vent ˌsər-kəm-ˈvent How to pronounce circumvent (audio)
: to go around : bypass entry 2
: to get the better of or avoid the force or effect of by cleverness
circumvented the rules
circumvention noun

More from Merriam-Webster on circumvent

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