out·​line | \ˈau̇t-ˌlīn \

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

contour, figure, silhouette

Synonyms: Verb

define, delineate, silhouette, sketch, trace

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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


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.


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

For the negotiations to succeed, an agreement on exit terms must be accompanied by a separate outline on the shape of future trade and security relations between the U.K. and the EU. Laurence Norman, WSJ, "Britain, EU Edge Closer to Brexit Deal," 9 Oct. 2018 The pelvic area was further highlighted on a pair of pants that boasted a green outline of the underwear’s V-shape silhouette. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, "Are You Ready for the Return of Tighty-Whities? Gucci Sure Is," 25 Sep. 2018 By looking at aerial satellite views a rough outline of the park can only be vaguely seen. Craig Hlavaty, Houston Chronicle, "Sea-Arama in Galveston was an island attraction for decades," 11 July 2018 One, as Quanta magazine outlines, is the possibility is that Oumuamua is a shard of a planet that was blown up by a dying star. Brian Resnick, Vox, "Oumuamua is the only interstellar object we’ve ever seen in our solar system. What is it?," 6 Nov. 2018 The white tubular steel outlines, award-winning examples of playful placemaking that allow visitors to reconstruct the buildings in their imaginations, have become icons and object lessons for architecture students. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "Masterpieces of Robert Venturi, a postmodern architecture icon," 20 Sep. 2018 As the Bureau outlines, felons are prohibited from possessing a firearm. Danielle Garrand, CBS News, "Medical marijuana or guns? Oklahoma latest state forced to choose," 29 June 2018 Identify goals and the type of live-streaming videos that work best; Create outlines/agendas for first three or more videos. Cindy Kent, Sun-Sentinel.com, "The Planner: Seminars, networking and workshops for you, your career and your business," 29 June 2018 The title might well refer to the thin, meager outlines of a screenplay that can scarcely contain him. Justin Chang, latimes.com, "'Boundaries' takes the road all too quirkily traveled," 21 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The idea of eliminating emissions while nurturing the carbon-capturing natural environment will prove critical to avoid the future outlined in the report. Alissa Walker, Curbed, "Cities have 15 months to reverse climate change, says new report," 8 Oct. 2018 The role of the deputy chief state’s attorney for operations, outlined in a state job posting, is to advise and counsel other attorneys in the chief state’s attorney’s office on investigative and prosecutive matters. Nicholas Rondinone, courant.com, "Commission Expected To Appoint New Deputy Chief State's Attorney," 13 July 2018 In July 2017, following a series of court rulings that found anti-panhandling laws elsewhere in the nation to be unconstitutional, Orlando overturned its 2000 ordinance that limited solicitation to a series of boxes outlined in blue paint. Kate Santich, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Downtown Orlando panhandling soaring, leaders say," 9 July 2018 The property owners had contract agreements with Paradigm Property Solutions that outlined Paradigm's responsibilities for things such as handling repairs, maintaining lawn care, ongoing insurance, and other operating costs on the rental properties. Ruth Brown, idahostatesman, "Lawsuit accuses Meridian-based property management LLC of embezzling up to $1 million," 27 June 2018 To get food into the city, say, or repair disabled subway lines, emergency officials might draw on contingencies outlined in the event of another Hurricane Sandy. Daily Intelligencer, "This Is What a Nuclear Bomb Looks Like," 12 June 2018 Jack outlines his achievements by selecting five representative incidents out of a purported 60 or so total kills. David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The House That Jack Built': Film Review | Cannes 2018," 15 May 2018 Details are yet to be worked out, but priorities were outlined in a road map produced by an expert group last year. Dennis Normile, Science | AAAS, "Australian scientists welcome boosts in in new federal budget," 9 May 2018 In addition to ordering that Pitt be allowed to spend private time on the phone with kids, the court also outlined a detailed summer visitation schedule for the couple. Mike Miller, PEOPLE.com, "Judge Declares Brad Pitt Should Be Allowed to Text Kids Without Supervision from Angelina Jolie," 13 June 2018

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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Statistics for outline

Last Updated

4 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for outline

The first known use of outline was in 1662

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More Definitions for outline



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 \

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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with outline

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for outline

Spanish Central: Translation of outline

Nglish: Translation of outline for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of outline for Arabic Speakers

Comments on outline

What made you want to look up outline? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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