lin·​e·​ar | \ ˈli-nē-ər \

Definition of linear 

1a(1) : of, relating to, resembling, or having a graph that is a line and especially a straight line : straight
(2) : involving a single dimension
b(1) : of the first degree with respect to one or more variables
c(1) : characterized by an emphasis on line linear art
(2) : composed of simply drawn lines with little attempt at pictorial representation linear script
d : consisting of a straight chain of atoms a linear molecule
2 : elongated with nearly parallel sides linear leaf — see leaf illustration
3 : having or being a response or output that is directly proportional to the input
4 : of, relating to, or based or depending on sequential development linear thinking a linear narrative

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Other Words from linear

linearity \ ˌli-​nē-​ˈer-​ə-​tē , -​ˈa-​rə-​ \ noun
linearly \ ˈli-​nē-​ər-​lē \ adverb

Examples of linear in a Sentence

a flat, almost linear horizon the bullets from early firearms were notorious for not following a strictly linear path through the air

Recent Examples on the Web

Lots of projects come about in a very linear way, but this was the antithesis. Adam Rathe, Town & Country, "Artist Doug Aitken's Stunning New Detroit Exhibit Holds a Mirror Up to the Way America Lives," 8 Oct. 2018 The cost of creating new stuff is not linear, right? Eric Johnson, Recode, "Wearables pioneer Jawbone is back with a new mission: Warning you about health problems you didn’t know you had," 26 Sep. 2018 The script by Bernstein’s daughter and George Steel (the show is produced by Copland House) isn’t linear biography or musicological investigation. Peter Dobrin,, "'Late Night' takes a spin through Leonard Bernstein's big brain," 22 Apr. 2018 Today the Frick Family Papers are beautifully organized in floor-to-ceiling rows of gray boxes, some 1,200 linear feet of material. William Middleton, Town & Country, "From Gates to Rockefeller, Wealthy Families Hire Personal Historians to Preserve Their Legacy," 26 Oct. 2018 By gently adjusting the modules, the living areas open more towards the courtyard while curving the linear block away from the street to expand the sidewalk into a public square. Liz Stinson, Curbed, "Bjarke Ingels Group completes prefab affordable housing project in Denmark," 16 Oct. 2018 One suspects that jumbled structure was used because a linear account of Gotti’s criminal career would reveal little beyond banal tawdriness. New York Times, "Review: John Travolta Has the Dapper Look, but ‘Gotti’ Is a Mess," 15 June 2018 Here is a plot of ω squared vs. 1/L: That looks fairly linear. Rhett Allain, WIRED, "The Physics of Swinging a Mass on a String for Fun," 9 May 2018 The Guggenheim ramp favors a linear presentation, closer to shop windows in which the sculptures are displayed—looking out at us, and we at them. Lance Esplund, WSJ, "‘Giacometti’ Review: Beyond a Retrospective," 19 June 2018

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

circa 1656, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

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Statistics for linear

Last Updated

4 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for linear

The first known use of linear was circa 1656

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More Definitions for linear



English Language Learners Definition of linear

: formed by lines : made up of lines

: forming a line

: of or relating to the length of something


lin·​ear | \ ˈli-nē-ər \

Kids Definition of linear

1 : made up of, relating to, or like a line : straight
2 : involving a single dimension


lin·​ear | \ ˈlin-ē-ər \

Medical Definition of linear 

: of, relating to, or resembling a line

Other Words from linear

linearity \ ˌlin-​ē-​ˈar-​ət-​ē \ noun, plural -ties
linearly \ ˈlin-​ē-​ər-​lē \ adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on linear

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for linear

Spanish Central: Translation of linear

Nglish: Translation of linear for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of linear for Arabic Speakers

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marked by shyness and lack of polish

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