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, 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

If scientists can discover a way to circumvent a genetic limitation — say, adding cat DNA to human eyes cells to see better in the dark — such therapies can become tools in the enhancement chest. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "Short-Term Superhuman: If We Create Augmented Soldiers, Can We Turn Them Back?," 25 Sep. 2018 The lawsuit alleges Greitens used the app to circumvent the state’s open records laws. Jason Hancock, kansascity, "Inquiry of Greitens' nonprofit likely to continue, despite House decision on subpoena," 8 June 2018 Spring and latch systems offer a way to circumvent the force-velocity tradeoffs of muscles. Robbie Gonzalez, WIRED, "Nature’s Mechanical Secrets Could Help Build Faster Robots," 26 Apr. 2018 For Bitcoin fanatics, the original blockchain was a way to create a currency that could circumvent and eventually supersede central banks. New York Times, "A Field Guide to the Hurdles Facing Blockchain Adoption," 27 June 2018 The official said the U.S. administration had hoped to circumvent the Palestinian Authority by appealing to other Arab countries who might force the issue. Jewish Journal, "U.S. may postpone peace proposal due to Palestinian rejection," 22 Mar. 2018 Prosecutors say the men circumvented Elemetal's anti-money-laundering compliance program by buying gold from a drug trafficker, bribing Peruvian officials and falsifying paperwork. Fox News, "Gold refinery agrees to $15M fine after money laundering," 16 Mar. 2018 According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, last year U.S. airstrikes more than tripled in Yemen and Somalia, where the Trump administration circumvented restrictions on operations outside war zones that were put in place in 2013. New York Times, "The Wounds of the Drone Warrior," 13 June 2018 Though federal law always forbade it at the time, the local superior court clerk — perhaps familiar with the twins after staying in the same boardinghouse — might have been inclined to help these celebrities circumvent restrictions, Huang surmises. Vanessa Hua, San Francisco Chronicle, "‘Inseparable,’ by Yunte Huang," 10 May 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

12 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for circumvent

The first known use of circumvent was in 1539

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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).


by force of circumstances

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