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 Bloomberg’s ad circumvents this debate entirely, making no mention of the other Democratic candidates or their plans. Jason Zengerle, New York Times, "Michael Bloomberg’s Radically Conventional Campaign Against Donald Trump," 22 Jan. 2020 It’s during the time of accumulating snow that a series of factors can circumvent attempts at mitigation. Marc Peruzzi, Outside Online, "Just Because You're Inbounds Doesn't Mean You're Safe," 10 Jan. 2020 The only way to mitigate the damage was to undertake a ham-fisted effort to attack the Senate trial and dampen, or perhaps circumvent, that inevitable moment. David Harsanyi, National Review, "Pelosi’s Impeachment Blunder," 9 Jan. 2020 He was charged with violating U.S. sanctions by circumventing export controls on carbon fiber, according to U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman of the Southern District of New York. Fox News, "Iranian citizen who violated US sanctions by exporting carbon fiber gets prison time," 14 Nov. 2019 There are six routes — most circumvent religious neighborhoods — with minibuses scheduled to come every half hour., "PepsiCo will expand SodaStream plant in southern Israel," 25 Nov. 2019 In an attempt to circumvent corrupt practices at the polls, there will be about 100,000 observers, most of them local and belonging to a candidate. Rahim Faiez, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Afghans face presidential vote amid violence, corruption," 26 Sep. 2019 Meanwhile, this most recent lawsuit represented an attempt by legalization proponents to circumvent the DEA in the search of an alternate path toward easing federal laws banning marijuana. Tom Huddleston Jr., Fortune, "Why a Federal Judge Dismissed a Lawsuit That Could Have Legalized Marijuana Nationwide," 27 Feb. 2018 An Associated Press analysis in July found that many large farming operations had no trouble circumventing the program’s payment caps. Washington Post, "Senate Democrats assail Trump’s $16B bailout for farmers," 12 Nov. 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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Time Traveler for circumvent

Time Traveler

The first known use of circumvent was in 1539

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Last Updated

19 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Circumvent.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Feb. 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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