en·​ve·​lope | \ ˈen-və-ˌlōp How to pronounce envelope (audio) , ˈän- How to pronounce envelope (audio) \

Definition of envelope

1 : a flat usually paper container (as for a letter)
2 : something that envelops : wrapper the envelope of air around the earth
3a : the outer covering of an aerostat
b : the bag containing the gas in a balloon or airship
4a : a natural enclosing covering (such as a membrane, shell, or integument)
b : a lipoprotein unit membrane that forms the outer layer of some virions
5a : a curve tangent to each of a family of curves
b : a surface tangent to each of a family of surfaces
6 : a set of performance limits (as of an aircraft) that may not be safely exceeded also : the set of operating parameters that exists within these limits
7 : a conventionally accepted limit new computers that push the envelope

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How do you pronounce envelope?: Usage Guide

The \ˈen-\ and \ˈän-\ pronunciations are used with about equal frequency, and both are fully acceptable, though the \ˈän-\ version is sometimes decried as "pseudo-French." Actually \ˈän-\ is exactly what one would expect to hear when a French word like entrepreneur is becoming anglicized. Envelope, however, has been in English for nearly 300 years, plenty of time for it to become completely anglicized and for both of its pronunciations to win respectability.

Examples of envelope in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

The narrative shifts between the confines of the submarine, a knife-thin envelope of steel that keeps the men on top of each other (and at each others’ throats), and La Rochelle, where Simone is drawn into a shadowy espionage plot against the Nazis. Taylor Antrim, Vogue, "Das Boot," 14 June 2019 River Forest Library staff members learned at a special training session how dementia can affect someone’s ability to perform everyday activities such as opening a magazine to a specific page or addressing an envelope. Rachel K. Hindery, chicagotribune.com, "River Forest Library staff learn to help those with dementia," 3 June 2019 An envelope can serve as a place for guests to write advice to the graduate, which gives everyone something to talk about, and the guest of honor something thoughtful to take with him or her at the end of the night. Whitney Robinson, ELLE Decor, "Darcy Miller's Top Five Table-Setting Secrets," 30 Apr. 2019 The slugger, who received the ball postgame in a yellow envelope from a Phillies official, will send the fans a bat and ball as thanks. Aaron Bracy, The Seattle Times, "Harper homers, hears “MVP!” chants as Phillies beat Braves," 31 Mar. 2019 Some of the photographs showed a man in front of a building holding an envelope with a numerical code. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "Silk Road’s alleged hitman, “redandwhite,” arrested in Vancouver," 21 Nov. 2018 Helicopter or tilt-rotor carrier landings do not require the same amount of preparation as that needed for a C-2 landing; there is no need for a catapult and a tilt-rotor naturally has a much wider envelope with which to maneuver. Kris Osborn, Fox News, "Marines will fly Osprey until 2060, prepping the aircraft for future wars," 18 Sep. 2018 During the weekdays, the duo attended a school that required uniforms, but Suzzie always tried to push the envelope, wearing neon socks under the school’s required black or brown socks and often donning a glittery, pink scrunchie. Teen Vogue, "YanYan Makes A Case For Wearing Knits In The Summer," 30 May 2019 Marc PiaseckiGetty Images Always pushing the envelope on naked and near-naked outfits, Kim Kardashian wore a tattoo-print sheer catsuit last night. Katherine J. Igoe, Marie Claire, "My Eyeballs Can't Handle Kim Kardashian's Fully Sheer '90s Catsuit," 2 May 2019

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

circa 1714, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for envelope

Last Updated

20 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for envelope

The first known use of envelope was circa 1714

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More Definitions for envelope



English Language Learners Definition of envelope

: an enclosing cover for a letter, card, etc.


en·​ve·​lope | \ ˈen-və-ˌlōp How to pronounce envelope (audio) , ˈän-\

Kids Definition of envelope

: a flat usually paper container (as for a letter)


en·​ve·​lope | \ ˈen-və-ˌlōp How to pronounce envelope (audio) , ˈän- How to pronounce envelope (audio) \

Medical Definition of envelope

: a natural enclosing covering (as a membrane or integument) especially : a lipoprotein unit membrane that forms the outer layer of some virions and surrounds the viral capsid These glycoprotein complexes, swept up by the budding virus as it acquires its envelope, are crucial to HIV's ability to infect new cells. — William A. Haseltine et al., Scientific American, October 1988

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More from Merriam-Webster on envelope

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with envelope

Spanish Central: Translation of envelope

Nglish: Translation of envelope for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of envelope for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about envelope

Comments on envelope

What made you want to look up envelope? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to take the place or position of

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