verb cir·cum·vent \ˌsər-kəm-ˈvent\

Definition of circumvent

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1a :  to hem in Circumvented by the enemy, he had to surrender.b :  to make a circuit around the river circumvented

  3. 2 :  to manage to get around especially by ingenuity or stratagem the setup circumvented the red tape — Lynne McTaggart circumvent a problem


play \-ˈven(t)-shən\ noun

circumvent was our Word of the Day on 02/05/2012. Hear the podcast!

Examples of circumvent in a sentence

  1. 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

  2. … 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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. We circumvented the problem by using a different program.

  6. He found a way to circumvent the law.

Did You Know?

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.

Origin and Etymology of circumvent

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

First Known Use: 1539

CIRCUMVENT Defined for English Language Learners


verb cir·cum·vent \ˌsər-kəm-ˈvent\

Definition of circumvent for English Language Learners

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

CIRCUMVENT Defined for Kids


verb cir·cum·vent \ˌsər-kəm-ˈvent\

Definition of circumvent for Students




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

Seen and Heard

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


to criticize severely

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.