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

Other Words from encroach

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

Synonyms for encroach


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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. 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).

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 Concerned that China’s strict zero-COVID-19 controls will further encroach on basic freedoms and lead to economic and social stagnation, Carol and many of her peers are exploring contingency plans to move overseas. Ann Scott Tyson, The Christian Science Monitor, 8 June 2022 And as humans continue to encroach on wild spaces, frogs are undoubtedly coming into more frequent contact with new species, or even unfamiliar objects, that could distract them from better prospects. Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 17 May 2022 Without his eyedrops, Pellegrin’s optic nerve would deteriorate under pressure inside his eyes; the blackness that occludes his peripheral vision would continue to encroach. Ben Taub, The New Yorker, 16 May 2022 Rodriguez looked pained, as if the conversation had begun to encroach on uncomfortable territory. Rachel Monroe, The New Yorker, 26 May 2022 The new law might appear to encroach upon many of Hong Kong films’ favorite themes, such as crime, corruption and triad gangs, but few have so far sought to test it. Patrick Frater, Variety, 18 May 2022 That meeting also depends on the condition that Moscow's troops don't further encroach into Ukraine. Stephen Collinson, CNN, 20 Feb. 2022 Starting in the 1930s, city development began to encroach on Fourth Ward, despite its importance as a historic and cultural center, to make room for a new City Hall and the Gulf Freeway, among other projects. Lauren Mcdowell, Chron, 28 Apr. 2022 And soon, dozens of offshore wind turbines - part of President Joe Biden’s clean energy agenda - will encroach their habitat as the administration tries to balance tackling global warming with protecting wildlife. Dino Grandoni, Anchorage Daily News, 22 Apr. 2022 See More

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.

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

23 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Encroach.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/encroach. Accessed 1 Jul. 2022.

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More Definitions for encroach


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.


intransitive verb
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

More from Merriam-Webster on encroach

Nglish: Translation of encroach for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of encroach for Arabic Speakers


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