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

Definition of circumvent

transitive verb

1 : to manage to get around especially by ingenuity or stratagem the setup circumvented the red tape— Lynne McTaggart circumvent a problem
2a : to hem in Circumvented by the enemy, he had to surrender.
b : to make a circuit around the river circumvented

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Other Words from circumvent

circumvention \ ˌsər-​kəm-​ˈven(t)-​shən How to pronounce circumvention (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for circumvent


beat, bypass, dodge, get around, shortcut, sidestep, skirt


comply (with), follow, keep, obey, observe

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The Circular History of Circumvent

If you’ve ever felt as if someone were 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, as in our example sentences.

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

One banned feature gun makers haven’t been able to circumvent is the limit passed by California in 1999 on new magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds. Zusha Elinson And Cameron Mcwhirter, WSJ, "Gun Makers Adjust Rifles to Skirt Bans," 21 June 2019 And there is a good argument to be made that any comprehensive regulatory plan passed by Congress would be easily circumvented by the largest firms and thus serve only as a barrier to entry for smaller companies. Jessie Maga, National Review, "A Sensible Middle Ground on Data Privacy," 19 June 2019 Some on the mainland were able to circumvent censors by posting inverted or distorted images of the protests. Keith Bradsher,, "China backs Hong Kong’s leader despite huge protests," 17 June 2019 Qatar is one of the wealthiest countries on earth due to its natural gas reserves, and has been able to circumvent the boycott with help from its regional ally, Turkey, and other nations. Washington Post, "AP PHOTOS: Vibrant Qatar shrugs off Arab boycott," 5 June 2019 Science is increasingly facing problems with its ability to communicate ideas publicly, a problem that politicians, and flat-Earthers, are able to circumvent with moves towards populism. Harry T Dyer / The Conversation, Ars Technica, "I watched an entire Flat Earth Convention for my research—here’s what I learned," 6 May 2018 Parents say students have been able to circumvent the policy by putting non-clear bags inside the backpacks. Bradford Betz, Fox News, "Parkland-area forum on school safety brings angry parents, students," 19 Apr. 2018 In an attempt to circumvent that constraint, the Rev. Jarrett Maupin, an activist who is working with the family, submitted a formal citizen's petition asking the council to direct the city manager to fire the police officers. Jessica Boehm, azcentral, "Activists demand Phoenix City Council fire officers from viral encounter with family. Can they?," 20 June 2019 As such, some organizations on Facebook use coy in-jokes and other far-right dog whistling tactics to circumvent Facebook’s algorithmic filters. Nick Statt, The Verge, "Hundreds of active and former police officers are part of extremist Facebook groups," 14 June 2019

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.

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First Known Use of circumvent

1539, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

History and Etymology for circumvent

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

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Statistics for circumvent

Last Updated

9 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for circumvent

The first known use of circumvent was in 1539

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More Definitions for circumvent



English Language Learners Definition of circumvent

formal : to avoid being stopped by (something, such as a law or rule) : to get around (something) in a clever and sometimes dishonest way


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

Kids Definition of circumvent

: to avoid the force or effect of by cleverness They tried to circumvent the rules.

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Comments on circumvent

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


an act or instance of editing or removing

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