encroach

verb

en·​croach in-ˈkrōch How to pronounce encroach (audio)
en-
encroached; encroaching; encroaches

intransitive verb

1
: to enter by gradual steps or by stealth into the possessions or rights of another
2
: to advance beyond the usual or proper limits
the gradually encroaching sea
encroacher noun
encroachment noun

Did you know?

The history behind encroach is likely to hook you in. The word derives from the Middle English encrochen, which means "to get or seize." The Anglo-French predecessor of encrochen is encrocher, which was formed by combining the prefix en- ("in") with the noun croche ("hook"). Croche also gave us our word crochet, in reference to the hooked needle used in that craft. Encroach carries the meaning of "intrude," both in terms of privilege or property. The word can also hop over legal barriers to describe a general advancement beyond desirable or normal limits (such as a hurricane that encroaches on the mainland).

Choose the Right Synonym for encroach

trespass, encroach, infringe, invade mean to make inroads upon the property, territory, or rights of another.

trespass implies an unwarranted or unlawful intrusion.

hunters trespassing on farmland

encroach suggests gradual or stealthy entrance upon another's territory or usurpation of another's rights or possessions.

the encroaching settlers displacing the native peoples

infringe implies an encroachment clearly violating a right or prerogative.

infringing a copyright

invade implies a hostile and injurious entry into the territory or sphere of another.

accused of invading their privacy

Examples of encroach in a Sentence

The suburbs encroach further into the rural areas each year. each year the sea continues to encroach upon the island's beaches
Recent Examples on the Web Some argue the other major factor – both contributing to hybridization and species extinction – is habitat loss as human development encroaches on the natural world. Ella Nilsen, CNN, 6 Apr. 2024 Nature encroaches, seemingly stronger than mere muscle and faith. Imani Perry, The Atlantic, 28 Mar. 2024 In February 2023, the company filed a lawsuit alleging that her home encroached on its land. Melissa Noel, Essence, 27 Mar. 2024 The encroaching tyranny that has engulfed our once, relatively, free society comes from the Democratic Party. Elizabeth Stauffer, Washington Examiner, 12 Jan. 2024 But that disclaimer, its phrasing right out of the career politician’s playbook, also distills one of the book’s core tensions: Politics, in the memoir, encroaches on everything else. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, 19 Mar. 2024 That’s powerful stuff when we are confronted on a daily basis with the reality of living in a nation encroached upon by forces as evil as the King of Hybern. Maureen Lee Lenker, EW.com, 1 Feb. 2024 Advocates of the zoning restrictions said the rules are necessary to preserve local habitats and prevent data center development from encroaching on the area. Danny Nguyen, Washington Post, 14 Dec. 2023 The state wouldn’t be encroaching on anyone’s freedom. Kathryn Anne Edwards, The Mercury News, 29 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'encroach.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English encrochen to get, seize, from Anglo-French encrocher, from en- + croc, croche hook — more at crochet

First Known Use

1528, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of encroach was in 1528

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Dictionary Entries Near encroach

Cite this Entry

“Encroach.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/encroach. Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

encroach

verb
en·​croach in-ˈkrōch How to pronounce encroach (audio)
1
: to enter or force oneself on another's property or rights little by little
2
: to advance beyond the usual or desirable limits
the gradually encroaching sea
encroachment noun

Legal Definition

encroach

intransitive verb
en·​croach in-ˈkrōch How to pronounce encroach (audio)
: to enter especially gradually or stealthily into the possessions or rights of another
encroaches on an adjoining property
Etymology

Anglo-French encrocher, probably alteration of acrocher to catch hold of, seize, usurp, from Old French, from a-, prefix stressing goal + croc hook

More from Merriam-Webster on encroach

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