cy·​cle | \ ˈsī-kəl How to pronounce cycle (audio) \

Definition of cycle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : an interval of time during which a sequence of a recurring succession of events or phenomena is completed a 4-year cycle of growth and development
2a : a course or series of events or operations that recur regularly and usually lead back to the starting point … the common cycle of birth, growth, senescence, and death.— T. C. Schneirla and Gerard Piel
b : one complete performance of a vibration, electric oscillation, current alternation, or other periodic process
c : a permutation of a set of ordered elements in which each element takes the place of the next and the last becomes first
d : a takeoff and landing of an airplane
3 : a circular or spiral arrangement: such as
a : an imaginary circle or orbit in the heavens
4 : a long period of time : age
5a : a group of creative works (such as poems, plays, or songs) treating the same theme a cycle of poems about unrequited love
b : a series of narratives dealing typically with the exploits of a legendary hero the Arthurian cycle
6a : bicycle
b : tricycle
7 : the series of a single, double, triple, and home run hit in any order by one player during one baseball game


cycled; cycling\ ˈsī-​k(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce cycle (audio) \

Definition of cycle (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1a : to pass through a cycle The menu cycles through all the options. Because the traditional HVAC system cycles on and off—and is powered down when you leave—relief is inconsistent at best.— Sarah Littleton
b : to recur in cycles Freezing temperatures … aren't the problem. It's when temperatures cycle between freezing and thaws, causing pavement to contract and expand … that can create larger issues.— Jonathan Oosting
2 : to ride a cycle specifically : bicycle She cycles to work.

transitive verb

: to cause to go through a cycle The fact that it [the pump] runs constantly may be a bad sign. It may be cycling the water, not removing it.Popular Mechanics Everything is constantly cycled in nature. There is abundant waste in nature, just as there is in industry, but in nature waste constantly flows back into living systems.— Paul Hawken and William McDonough

Other Words from cycle


cycler \ ˈsī-​k(ə-​)lər How to pronounce cycle (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for cycle

Synonyms: Noun

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of cycle in a Sentence

Noun We have to wait for the dishwasher's wash and dry cycles to end. the spin cycle on a washing machine He rode his cycle into town. Verb The water is cycled back into the system after it has been used. The water cycles back into the system.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Your ruler, fidgety Mercury, is hitting the starting bell on a three-week retrograde cycle that will mainly impact your 5th House of Fulfillment and Fun. Chicago Tribune, 9 Sep. 2022 And of course, if William is the monarch, that means that Prince George will be the Prince of Wales — and the whole cycle begins once more. Simon Perry, Peoplemag, 9 Sep. 2022 Family, friends, and whatever the news cycle has for us. Sarah Madaus, SELF, 8 Sep. 2022 Fast fashion labels have been delivering pieces in response to the ever-evolving trend cycle. Essence, 8 Sep. 2022 Ohio State could end up with a defensive back class featuring nothing but in-state recruits, and it be considered a homerun cycle. Stephen Means, cleveland, 8 Sep. 2022 Intense media coverage leads to more intense media coverage, a sometimes-vicious cycle that seemingly can’t be broken. Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, 8 Sep. 2022 But first: The debate over debates happens every election cycle. Ben Kamisar, NBC News, 8 Sep. 2022 The new machine even weighs the laundry before the cycle to determine how much water is needed for the size of the load. Christian Vescia, CNN, 7 Sep. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Lying flat originated with Luo Huazhong, a factory worker, who eventually quit his job to cycle across China. Paolo Confino, Fortune, 2 Sep. 2022 Older buildings’ ventilation systems often can’t cycle enough air in and out to sufficiently remove the droplets COVID-19 clings to. Marin Wolf, Anchorage Daily News, 24 Aug. 2022 But Sutherland said even without benzo-dope, and even with the best intentions and care, people will cycle on and off of drugs. Los Angeles Times, 18 May 2022 Those ceramic panels support touch control, with a single touch and hold used to cycle through the ANC modes. Brad Moon, Forbes, 16 Aug. 2022 From there, Barnes will cycle to the capitol building. Fox News, 19 July 2022 Over the course of July, several movies and TV shows will cycle off the streaming service — including classics like 30 Rock and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Christian Holub,, 22 June 2022 The stamp—which features a bright orange illustrated tiger—is the third in a series of Lunar New Year stamps that will cycle through the Chinese zodiac symbols. Emily Vanschmus, Better Homes & Gardens, 20 Jan. 2022 Among the findings is a lack of basic consensus on solutions, which cause mentally ill residents to cycle in and out of ERs and jails. Fifth & Mission Podcast, San Francisco Chronicle, 12 July 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'cycle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of cycle


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1842, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for cycle


Middle English cicle, from Late Latin cyclus, from Greek kyklos circle, wheel, cycle — more at wheel


derivative of cycle entry 1

Buying Guide

Our Reviews team has selected the best commuter bikes.

Learn More About cycle

Time Traveler for cycle

Time Traveler

The first known use of cycle was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near cycle



cycle billing

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for cycle

Last Updated

13 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Cycle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for cycle


cy·​cle | \ ˈsī-kəl How to pronounce cycle (audio) \

Kids Definition of cycle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a period of time taken up by a series of events or actions that repeat themselves again and again in the same order the cycle of the seasons
2 : a complete round or series The dishwasher started its drying cycle.


cycled; cycling

Kids Definition of cycle (Entry 2 of 2)

: to ride a bicycle or motorcycle


cy·​cle | \ ˈsī-kəl How to pronounce cycle (audio) \

Medical Definition of cycle

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a recurring series of events: as
a(1) : a series of stages through which an organism tends to pass once in a fixed order the common cycle of birth, growth, senescence and death— T. C. Schneirla & Gerard Piel also : a series of stages through which a population of organisms tends to pass more or less in synchrony the mosquito-hatching cycle — see life cycle
(2) : a series of physiological, biochemical, or psychological stages that recur in the same individual — see cardiac cycle, menstrual cycle krebs cycle
b : one complete performance of a vibration, electric oscillation, current alternation, or other periodic process
c : a series of ecological stages through which a substance tends to pass and which usually but not always leads back to the starting point the cycle of nitrogen in the living world

Other Words from cycle

cyclic \ ˈsī-​klik also ˈsik-​lik \ or cyclical \ ˈsī-​kli-​kəl How to pronounce cycle (audio) , ˈsik-​li-​ How to pronounce cycle (audio) \ adjective
cyclically \ -​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce cycle (audio) \ also cyclicly \ ˈsī-​kli-​klē, ˈsik-​li-​ How to pronounce cycle (audio) \ adverb


intransitive verb
cycled; cycling

Medical Definition of cycle (Entry 2 of 2)

: to undergo the estrous cycle the mare has begun cycling

More from Merriam-Webster on cycle

Nglish: Translation of cycle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of cycle for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about cycle

Test Your Vocabulary

Odd Habits and Quirks

  • image1926873504
  • Which of the following best describes an easily irritated person?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!