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

intransitive verb

: to enter by gradual steps or by stealth into the possessions or rights of another
: 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

Example Sentences

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 But fears of overreach forced Senate Democrats to cede even more ground, including provisions that addressed some Republicans’ fears that the measure could encroach on some individuals’ and groups’ religious liberties. Philip Elliott, Time, 18 Nov. 2022 Wildfires can encroach or shift direction with startling speed; exit roads can be cut off. Ingfei Chen, The New Yorker, 6 Sep. 2022 As hard seltzers and ready-to-drink cocktails encroach on market share, fruited sours have given breweries new ways to attract new customers, particularly after two tough pandemic years. Ruvani De Silva, Washington Post, 27 Oct. 2022 But, the real reason may be less innocuous, as an OTC switch will encroach upon drug makers’ ability to set high prices. Joshua Cohen, Forbes, 5 July 2022 Diseases with pandemic potential are becoming increasingly common as humans encroach upon the natural world, putting people in closer contact with animals and environments that can spread illness. Michele Barry, STAT, 3 July 2022 As humans encroach on the natural world, more deadly pandemics are likely to follow COVID. The Week Staff, The Week, 26 June 2022 People who lack privacy as secrecy, simply because their living quarters leave them exposed, are especially subject to being reported to the authorities, which can encroach on privacy as autonomy. Jeannie Suk Gersen, The New Yorker, 20 June 2022 As the government accepts foreign investments for the creation of ZEDEs, locals watch as corporations encroach upon their lands. Amiah Taylor, Fortune, 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.

Word History


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


Dictionary Entries Near encroach

Cite this Entry

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

Kids Definition



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

Legal Definition


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

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

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