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 That’s even bigger than the 6.8-inch Note 10+, which was already pushing the envelope of pocketability. Michael Simon, PCWorld, "Samsung Galaxy S20 preview: This one goes past 11 with more screen, more cameras, more everything," 22 Jan. 2020 The other potential break on the legislature’s progressive ambitions is the reluctance of Senate Democrats, who only control the upper chamber 21–19, to push the envelope too far. John Mccormack, National Review, "How Far Left Will Democrats Push Virginia?," 21 Jan. 2020 More from Benjy: Democrats mostly agree on the basics on immigration, but Castro pushed the envelope in April by releasing a plan to repeal a piece of immigration law, Section 1325, that allowed the government to prosecute migrants. NBC News, "Will Trump take the opening to de-escalate tensions with Iran?," 8 Jan. 2020 Without a doubt, McCarthy was viewed as a successful coach, but not one to push the envelope or to bring imagination to his game plans. Tim Cowlishaw, Dallas News, "The Cowboys’ hiring of Mike McCarthy is logical, but it also brings plenty of questions," 6 Jan. 2020 The settlement showed how Uber was addressing the repercussions of its internal conduct more than two years after the envelope-pushing behavior of its executives and employees first came to light. Kate Conger, New York Times, "Uber Settles Federal Investigation Into Workplace Culture," 18 Dec. 2019 In his short but highly influential career, Bangs carved out a niche as one of rock music’s most accomplished and envelope-pushing critics, writing for Rolling Stone, Creem, the Village Voice and other publications. San Diego Union-Tribune, "‘Almost Famous’ Lester Bangs’ legacy to be celebrated by his biographer, Jim DeRogatis, at Grossmont College," 29 Sep. 2019 Many comedians see their influence in such envelope-pushing performers as George Carlin and Bill Maher. Washington Post, "The Smothers Brothers mark their CBS firing 50 years ago," 29 July 2019 Ah, yes, those small red envelopes with cash inside. Kristin Lam, USA TODAY, "Lunar New Year 2020: What are the traditions, and which Asian cultures celebrate it?," 26 Jan. 2020

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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Time Traveler for envelope

Time Traveler

The first known use of envelope was circa 1714

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Statistics for envelope

Last Updated

14 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Envelope.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/envelope. Accessed 18 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for envelope


How to pronounce envelope (audio) How to pronounce envelope (audio)

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

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