cir·cum·vent | \ ˌsər-kᵊm-ˈvent \
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 \-ˈven(t)-shən \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for circumvent


beat, bypass, dodge, get around, 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

While Bill and Ted travel to the past to pick up Socrates with relative ease, in reality scientists and researchers need to find a way to circumvent the rules of physics in order to travel back in time. Matt Blitz, Popular Mechanics, "We Already Know How To Build a Time Machine," 28 May 2018 But foreign, outside groups have attempted to circumvent those blocks on social media, according to Politico. Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Fox News, "Ireland votes to repeal abortion ban: A look at the referendum," 26 May 2018 To try to rectify the situation, the state has attempted to circumvent teacher licensing or lower standards. NBC News, "High teacher turnover helps fuel educators' march on statehouses," 8 Apr. 2018 The Trump administration is attempting to circumvent federal environmental protection laws by filing waivers that allow the government to erect border barriers in ecologically sensitive areas. Rick Jervis, USA TODAY, "Texas wildlife refuge could become fierce battleground over Trump's proposed border wall," 9 Feb. 2018 Then came news that the EPA leader’s office had circumvented the White House and used an obscure provision in the Safe Drinking Water Act to give large pay increases last month to two top aides, staffers who had come with him from Oklahoma. Brady Dennis, Washington Post, "Scott Pruitt steps down as EPA head after ethics, management scandals," 5 July 2018 This is an actual switch and not just an electronic command, so it can’t be circumvented by someone hacking into the device. Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY, "6 ways to keep Alexa from eavesdropping on you," 25 May 2018 Often, the celebrity is willing pay the accuser an amount of money to, essentially, go away and keep quiet—in that scenario, the celebrity would have circumvented the notoriety and time consumption associated with defending a lawsuit. Michael Mccann,, "Could Gareon Conley Legally Prove That Rape Allegation Caused Draft Slide, Financial Harm?," 12 July 2018 Accordingly, Sam and Bash try to circumvent her by arranging meetings when Debbie, who has recently become a single mother, must return home to fulfill various maternal duties. Rachel Vorona Cote, The New Republic, "In GLOW, Who Gets To Be Empowered?," 28 June 2018

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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Last Updated

17 Sep 2018

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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

: 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 \
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).


to deposit or conceal in a hiding place

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