out·​line | \ ˈau̇t-ˌlīn How to pronounce outline (audio) \

Definition of outline

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a line that marks the outer limits of an object or figure : boundary the jagged outline of the mountains
b : shape the sharpening outline of her face— Willa Cather
2a : a style of drawing in which contours are marked without shading drew a dog in outline
b : a sketch in outline prepared several outlines of the suggested mural
3a : a condensed treatment of a particular subject an outline of world history
b : a summary of a written work : synopsis Students were required to give an outline for each assigned paper.
4 : a preliminary account of a project : plan gave the class an outline of the points he intended to cover
5 : a fishing line set out overnight


outlined; outlining; outlines

Definition of outline (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to draw the outline of
2 : to indicate the principal features or different parts of outlined their responsibilities

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Synonyms for outline

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

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Choose the Right Synonym for outline


outline, contour, profile, silhouette mean the line that bounds and gives form to something. outline applies to a line marking the outer limits or edges of a body or mass. traced the outline of his hand contour stresses the quality of an outline or a bounding surface as being smooth, jagged, curving, or sharply angled. a car with flowing contours profile suggests a varied and sharply defined outline against a lighter background. a portrait of her face in profile silhouette suggests a shape especially of a head or figure with all detail blacked out in shadow leaving only the outline clearly defined. photograph in silhouette against a bright sky

Examples of outline in a Sentence

Noun The pictures were drawn in outline and then filled in with color. The leaves etched into the vase have a gold outline. Organize your essay by writing an outline in which you state your main idea followed by your supporting points. a brief outline of American history Her speech was written in outline on note cards. Verb The President outlined his agenda for the next term. The book outlines the major events of the country's history. All players must follow the rules outlined above.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Milwaukee: Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s beach towels featuring yellow crime scene tape and an outline of a body quickly sold out Wednesday. USA TODAY, "Loveland valentines, crime scene towels, corn trail: News from around our 50 states," 9 Jan. 2020 Force’s illusion is similar (in a very broad sense) to the famous Necker cube, an outline of a cube with no visual indicator of which corner is pointing toward the viewer. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "This Is the Best Optical Illusion of the Year. Can You Figure It Out?," 20 Dec. 2019 The device attaches to your phone and scans your skin and face shape to create an outline for the mask. Hana Hong, Marie Claire, "Which Personalized Skincare Is Right For You?," 29 Nov. 2019 Golding is less lucky, an outline of serene dreaminess with no discernible personality trait beyond really great hair, and Yeoh is given far too much snappy Gilmore Girls-style dialogue to regurgitate. Leah Greenblatt, EW.com, "Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding's Last Christmas is a ridiculous holiday trifle," 6 Nov. 2019 The two bounce ideas back and forth to write an outline. Catalina Righter, baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll, "Writer from Westminster fulfills longtime goal with first book for kids," 29 Oct. 2019 This law created an outline and implementation schedule to create the foundation for a strong, robust paid family leave policy for Colorado workers and businesses by 2024. Monica Duran, The Denver Post, "Guest Commentary: Colorado domestic abuse survivors, like me, needed the support of paid family leave," 21 Oct. 2019 Hadden presided over a four-day hearing at which New London State’s Attorney Michael Regan and Assistant State’s Attorney Stephen Carney presented an outline of the state’s case against Sergio Correa. David Owens, courant.com, "Griswold triple murder, arson case can go to trial, judge rules," 25 Sep. 2019 Multiple cell phones companies emphasized that PG&E must give them adequate notice and an outline of the affected service area. Mallory Moench, SFChronicle.com, "California wildfires: Cell companies can’t promise indefinite service," 24 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Constitutionally speaking, the broad presidential powers outlined by the President's defense could reshape the way future Oval Office occupants view their duties. Aj Willingham, CNN, "5 things to know for January 31: Coronavirus, impeachment, US military, Mexico, guns," 31 Jan. 2020 As many candidates rushed to embrace the progressive policies outlined by Sanders in the 2016 presidential primary, Biden stayed close to the middle. Dallas News, "After being underestimated by rivals, Joe Biden holds steady lead in Democratic presidential race," 20 Jan. 2020 But the new general manager will have final say over personnel decisions, as outlined by Jimmy Haslam in his postseason press conference. Mary Kay Cabot, cleveland, "Will Browns HC Kevin Stefanski have a large role in player acquisition? Hey, Mary Kay!," 19 Jan. 2020 Instead, only children with medical conditions that preclude a child from being vaccinated—as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—would be granted an exemption. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "Anti-vaxxers celebrate victory in NJ as pro-vaccine bill falls apart," 14 Jan. 2020 Under the scenario outlined by McConnell, the Senate would allow both sides to present arguments and answer written questions from senators. Susan Ferrechio, Washington Examiner, "Pelosi will send impeachment articles to Senate pending 'details' of McConnell plan," 7 Jan. 2020 In Washington, there’s an unnerving breathlessness over the rapidity of the deepening crisis with Iran—with no clear strategy for next steps outlined by the Administration, much less an exit strategy. Robin Wright, The New Yorker, "The Breathtaking Unravelling of the Middle East After Qassem Suleimani’s Death," 6 Jan. 2020 House Democrats had presented their case over the previous three days, using almost all of the 24 hours allotted to them to outline their case that Trump abused the power of his office and obstructed Congress' investigation. Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY, "'We will be very efficient': Trump defense opens with warning against removal, attack on Schiff - 4 takeaways," 25 Jan. 2020 But Schumer said Schiff has been outlining a compelling case about Trump’s pressure on Ukraine and the scheme to cover up the charges and many Republicans are hearing it for only the first time. Author: Lisa Mascaro, Eric Tucker, Zeke Miller, Anchorage Daily News, "Democrats focus Day 2 of impeachment trial on alleged abuse of power by Trump," 23 Jan. 2020

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


1662, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


circa 1790, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for outline

Time Traveler

The first known use of outline was in 1662

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Statistics for outline

Last Updated

13 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Outline.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/outline. Accessed 26 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for outline


How to pronounce outline (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of outline

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a drawing or picture that shows only the shape of an object
: a style of drawing in which only the outer edges of an object are shown
: a line that is drawn around the edges of something



English Language Learners Definition of outline (Entry 2 of 2)

: to draw a line around the edges of (something)
: to list or describe only the most important parts of (an essay, speech, plan, etc.) : to give an outline of (something)


out·​line | \ ˈau̇t-ˌlīn How to pronounce outline (audio) \

Kids Definition of outline

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a line that traces or forms the outer limits of an object or figure and shows its shape
2 : a drawing or picture or style of drawing in which only the outer edges of an object or figure are shown outlines of animals
3 : an often numbered or lettered list of the important parts of something (as an essay)
4 : a short treatment of a subject an outline of world history


outlined; outlining

Kids Definition of outline (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to draw or trace the outer edges of Outline the circle in gold.
2 : to list or describe the main features or parts of … Mother went on outlining her plans for the storeroom.— Robert Lawson, Rabbit Hill

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More from Merriam-Webster on outline

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for outline

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with outline

Spanish Central: Translation of outline

Nglish: Translation of outline for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of outline for Arabic Speakers

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