en·ve·lope | \ˈen-və-ˌlōp, ˈän- \

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

More home cooks, too, are discovering that some of the best rice on offer doesn’t come precooked, in a microwavable envelope, and it isn’t imported, either. Osayi Endolyn, WSJ, "Why Chefs Are Elevating Rice to Star Ingredient Status," 13 July 2018 The gorgeous notes come cased in an envelope containing Kensington Palace’s crest, and feature the romantic black-and-white portrait of the couple taken just minutes before their wedding day by fashion photographer Alexi Lubomirski. Maria Pasquini, PEOPLE.com, "Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Send Sweet Thank You Notes Following Their Royal Wedding," 8 July 2018 Historically, envelope-pushing menswear designers who have struggled to find an audience for their more androgynous, adventurous designs have turned inward, reinventing everything from the fanny pack to pockets to work boots. Liz Raiss, GQ, "This Summer's Best Sandals Got the Big Ugly Sneaker Treatment," 4 July 2018 This summer has blessed rap fans with anthems from the genre's elite, as superstar artists have delivered high-quality, envelope-pushing bodies of work. Michael Saponara, Billboard, "Pusha T & Drake's Feud, Kanye's G.O.O.D. Music Domination, XXXTentacion's Death, 'Scorpion' & More: Recapping a Wild 40 Days in Hip-Hop," 2 July 2018 That goal could be attainable, if enough people show up Saturday and Sunday for this eco-friendly festival’s unique mixture of 50 envelope-pushing visual artists and 20 similarly edgy bands and solo acts. Lisa Deaderick, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Top weekend events: Juneteenth celebration, A Ship in the Woods Music & Art Festival, Wonderspaces," 15 June 2018 The shifts are confusing to Al-Manasser, who fled in 2006 with his family to Syria and then Oman after receiving a death threat that year in the form of a bullet stuffed in an envelope that was left on his family’s front doorstep. Hamed Aleaziz, San Francisco Chronicle, "Once a haven for refugees, California sees admissions dwindle under Trump," 11 June 2018 The large number of mail-in ballots, including those submitted in envelopes at vote centers, also has contributed to the delay in counting. Diana Lambert And Darrell Smith, sacbee, "Sacramento County has 200,000-plus votes to count, giving some candidates sliver of hope," 6 June 2018 For more than a decade, the South Coast district has proposed a more envelope-pushing strategy: clamping down on freight facilities and development projects using its authority under state law to regulate indirect sources of pollution. Tony Barboza, latimes.com, "Southern California air quality officials will craft rules governing warehouse, rail yard pollution," 4 May 2018

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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Phrases Related to envelope

push the envelope

return envelope

Statistics for envelope

Last Updated

26 Sep 2018

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, ˈän-\

Kids Definition of envelope

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


en·ve·lope | \ˈen-və-ˌlōp, ˈän- \

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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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).


exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

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