verb en·croach \ in-ˈkrōch , en- \
|Updated on: 8 Aug 2018

Definition of encroach

encroached; encroaching; encroaches
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




play \in-ˈkrōch-mənt, en\ noun

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Examples of encroach in a Sentence

  1. The suburbs encroach further into the rural areas each year.

  2. each year the sea continues to encroach upon the island's beaches

Recent Examples of encroach from the Web

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.

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).

Origin and Etymology of encroach

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

encroach Synonyms

Synonym Discussion of 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

ENCROACH Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of encroach for English Language Learners

  • : 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

ENCROACH Defined for Kids


verb en·croach \ in-ˈkrōch \

Definition of encroach for Students

encroached; encroaching
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.

Law Dictionary


intransitive verb en·croach \ in-ˈkrōch \

legal Definition of encroach

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

Origin and Etymology of 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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