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



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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 Trump signed an emergency declaration in May 2019 that allowed him to circumvent Congress and sell arms to the Saudis despite concerns from some lawmakers. Zachary Halaschak, Washington Examiner, "Fired State Department watchdog was investigating Saudi arms sale," 18 May 2020 The idea is to take away the pain component, thereby circumventing anyone’s aversion to shots, and to make something that can be kept at room temperature. J.d. Morris,, "Coronavirus vaccine could come from California, with no shot needed," 17 May 2020 The Tennessee Historical Commission rejected the request, so the Memphis City Council then approved the sale of parklands to the Memphis Greenspace, to circumvent the Heritage Protection Act and have the statues removed anyway. Fox News, "Remains of Confederate general, wife to be removed from Memphis park: reports," 14 May 2020 The White House’s misinformation and the federal government’s leadership vacuum are persistent problems, but several states are forming regional pacts to circumvent this and lend one another a helping hand. Robin George Andrews, The Atlantic, "What Happens If a ‘Big One’ Strikes During the Pandemic?," 9 May 2020 For decades, the DoJ and law enforcement agencies around the world have promoted the idea that encrypted digital communications hinder investigations and that, if those protections must exist, law enforcement needs a way to circumvent them. Wired, "The Same Old Encryption Debate Has a New Target: Facebook," 3 Oct. 2019 But this week brought efforts to circumvent both obstacles. Sharon Begley, STAT, "Covid-19 spreads too fast for traditional contact tracing. New digital tools could help," 2 Apr. 2020 Many are made under the guise of benign, everyday photos, in efforts to circumvent Instagram’s new bans on graphic content. Neha Chaudhary, Wired, "3 Ways for Big Tech to Protect Teens From Harm," 12 Feb. 2020 But that would require having an election first, whereas card check would circumvent elections entirely. Sean Higgins, Washington Examiner, "Diminished expectations: Democratic labor bill waters down 'card check'," 5 Feb. 2020

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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Time Traveler for circumvent

Time Traveler

The first known use of circumvent was in 1539

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Last Updated

27 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Circumvent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for circumvent


How to pronounce circumvent (audio)

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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