great circle

noun

: a circle formed on the surface of a sphere by the intersection of a plane that passes through the center of the sphere
specifically : such a circle on the surface of the earth an arc of which connecting two terrestrial points constitutes the shortest distance on the earth's surface between them

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web This clear-eyed production — a return visit from Public Works’ abridged 2017 run — sees the forest for the trees as themes of identity, change and the great circle of life are delicately woven through script, music and performances. Frank Rizzo, Variety, 30 Aug. 2022 Scientists say there are great circle routes around the moon that avoid changing elevation, for example. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, 29 Dec. 2021 The scientists say there are great circle routes around the moon that avoid changing elevation, for example. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, 16 June 2021 The animators of Disney’s The Lion King traveled to a park with dramatic landscapes in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley to get a feel for, as Mufasa puts it, the great circle of life. National Geographic, 11 July 2019 On a hyperbolic surface, some geodesics are infinitely long, like straight lines in the plane, but others close up into a loop, like the great circles on a sphere. Quanta Magazine, 12 Aug. 2014 Initially, the researchers tried to brute force the answer by examining every possible great circle on the planet. David Shultz, Science | AAAS, 30 Apr. 2018 Its memorial, at Lands End, stands on the great circle route from San Francisco to Guadalcanal. Gary Kamiya, San Francisco Chronicle, 9 June 2018 All straight-line paths along a sphere form a shape called a great circle. David Shultz, Science | AAAS, 30 Apr. 2018 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'great circle.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

circa 1530, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of great circle was circa 1530

Dictionary Entries Near great circle

Cite this Entry

“Great circle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/great%20circle. Accessed 31 May. 2023.

Kids Definition

great circle

noun
: a circle on the surface of a sphere that has the same center as the sphere
especially : one on the surface of the earth a portion of which is the shortest travel distance between two points

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