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 running circles around those trying to get something done, you have an idea of the origins of circumvent—it comes from the Latin word circumventus, a form of the verb circumvenire, meaning “to surround or go around” (circumvenire combines the adverb circum, “in a circle around,” and the verb venire, “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. This meaning doesn’t exactly square with modern uses of the word. Today, circumvent more often suggests avoidance than entrapment; to come full circle, it typically means to “get around” someone or something, as by evading a problem or avoiding the law.

Examples of circumvent in a Sentence

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.
Recent Examples on the Web By using its existing authority and circumventing Congressional or court approval, the administration has provided relief to millions of borrowers since then. Melissa Noel, Essence, 8 Apr. 2024 One quality manager in Washington State who left Boeing last year said workers assembling planes would sometimes try to install parts that had not been logged or inspected, an attempt to save time by circumventing quality procedures intended to weed out defective or substandard components. Santul Nerkar, New York Times, 28 Mar. 2024 In 2020, Epic Games filed a lawsuit against the company, accusing it of anticompetitive behavior, after being kicked off the App Store for offering a version of the Fortnite game that circumvented the Apple’s steep 30 percent fees for in-app purchases. Makena Kelly, WIRED, 21 Mar. 2024 The filing accuses Apple of willfully circumventing the spirit of the original order, which was designed to unlock competition by forcing Apple to let app makers communicate with their users about deals and promotions in specific ways. Brian Fung, CNN, 20 Mar. 2024 French officials are also worried about technology that could facilitate physical attacks, allowing perpetrators to circumvent safety checkpoints and physical barriers. Rick Noack, Washington Post, 19 Mar. 2024 Her future fraught with whispers of her father’s political connection to Argentina’s brutal dictatorship, she’s tasked with circumventing harsh truths to remain faithful to her destiny in the narrative that follows her through her formative years. Holly Jones, Variety, 19 Mar. 2024 The Living Wage for Musicians Act would create a new payment system, the Artist Compensation Royalty Fund, that circumvents record labels and other intermediaries, funneling listeners’ money directly to artists. Jazz Monroe, Pitchfork, 7 Mar. 2024 Sources at Nickelodeon allege Schneider attempted to circumvent the networks’ standards department by putting up content whose scripts had not been shown to the network for approval on The Slap. Etan Vlessing, The Hollywood Reporter, 25 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'circumvent.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 20 Apr. 2024.

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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