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

Definition of encroach

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

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Other Words from encroach

encroacher noun
encroachment \ in-​ˈkrōch-​mənt How to pronounce encroachment (audio) , en \ noun

Synonyms for encroach


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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

Did You Know?

The history behind "encroach" is likely to hook you in. First appearing in English in the 16th century, 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 (as demonstrated in our first example sentence) or property (as in our second example sentence). 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).

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 People who were born in 2002 grew up in the post-9/11 era, are gaining their political consciousness during the Trump presidency, and are part of the generation for whom the encroaching threat of climate change is more real than ever. Natalie Gontcharova, refinery29.com, "Born In 2002: 18 First-Time Voters On Going To The Polls In 2020," 30 Jan. 2020 But in both cases, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rejected their proposals, leaving them stuck between an encroaching sea and bureaucratic inaction. Nick Martin, The New Republic, "America’s Climate Refugees Are Pleading for Help. The Government Has No Answer.," 24 Jan. 2020 Bags with masks, fresh drinking water and food were hastily put together and placed by the cafe door in case an encroaching fire forced everyone to dash for the beach some 50 meters (164 feet) away. David Winning, WSJ, "Stay or Run? Dilemma for Those in Australia’s 5,000-Square-Mile Wildfire ‘Leave Zone’," 3 Jan. 2020 The latest predictions aren’t catastrophically different than previous years — unless your yard is already flooding a couple times a year from the steadily encroaching seas. Alex Harris, sun-sentinel.com, "New projections show that South Florida is in for even more sea level rise," 5 Dec. 2019 Eventually, the once-common forests became separated by encroaching stands of piñon, juniper and ponderosa pine; grasslands; and deserts. Debra Utacia Krol, azcentral, "The Mount Graham red squirrel continues its slow recovery. Now it faces a new foe.," 4 Dec. 2019 Initially set off by a contentious extradition bill, the movement has morphed into a wider ideological battle sustained by freewheeling, liberal Hong Kong’s fears of an encroaching autocratic Chinese government. Time, "Hong Kong Democracy Activist Joshua Wong Disqualified From Upcoming Election," 29 Oct. 2019 The Kincade, Tick, and Getty fires have forced many residents to evacuate in the face of encroaching wildfires and power shutoffs. Elizabeth Wolfe And Saeed Ahmed, CNN, "Airbnb hosts are offering free housing to thousands of California wildfire evacuees," 29 Oct. 2019 What if Peggy Guggenheim, renowned art collector and infamously eccentric heiress, took her only daughter and a pack of wayward artists and set up shop in a rural seaside Mexican town to escape the encroaching World War II? Seija Rankin, EW.com, "What's in a Page: Why Courtney Maum stopped everything to write Costalegre," 13 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'encroach.' 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 encroach

1528, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for encroach

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

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The first known use of encroach was in 1528

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Last Updated

21 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Encroach.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/encroach?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=e&file=encroa01. Accessed 21 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for encroach


How to pronounce encroach (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of encroach

: to gradually move or go into an area that is beyond the usual or desired limits
: to gradually take or begin to use or affect something that belongs to someone else or that someone else is using


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

Kids Definition of encroach

1 : to take over the rights or property of another little by little or in secret The prince encroached on the king's authority.
2 : to go beyond the usual or proper limits Cities have encroached upon wildlife habitats.
en·​croach | \ in-ˈkrōch How to pronounce encroach (audio) \

Legal Definition of encroach

: to enter especially gradually or stealthily into the possessions or rights of another encroaches on an adjoining property

History and Etymology for encroach

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

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