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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for outline

Synonyms: Noun

contour, figure, silhouette

Synonyms: Verb

define, delineate, silhouette, sketch, trace

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

In regular session, the board will review the Local Control Accountability Plan and its 2019-20 budget; and new and revised course outlines. Laura Groch, San Diego Union-Tribune, "On the agenda, June 23," 23 June 2019 Greco gives the play a magnificently stark staging on a bare stage occasionally illuminated by Hana Kim’s projection design — black-and-white images of thick drops dripping or outlines of people walking on city streets. Sam Hurwitt, The Mercury News, "Review: Magic Theatre’s barrio ‘Oedipus’ dazzles a decade later," 14 June 2019 Some were simple, such as a black box leather version made of a single piece with a chalk-like trompe l’oeil outline. Vogue, "Garçon! Olivier Saillard Steps Into the Role of Waiter-Poet for J.M. Weston," 16 Jan. 2019 Last summer’s heat wave exaggerated the contrast, creating a circular outline in the field. Bridget Alex, Discover Magazine, "State of Science: Drought Uncovers Ancient Irish Henge," 1 Jan. 2019 Their map, called the Equal Earth projection, has the same size and outline as the Robinson projection, but also increases the size of equatorial regions. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "Feast Your Eyes on "Equal Earth," the New and More Accurate World Map," 5 Sep. 2018 The new look is significantly cleaner, with no accents on the pants and no outlines around the jersey numbers. Dan Gartland, SI.com, "Jaguars Reveal New Simplified Uniforms and Helmets," 19 Apr. 2018 The outline of the deal presented to council shows building in three phases, with the first 250,000 square feet in place by July 2025. Riley Murdock, azcentral, "Mesa lands Google data center. Here's a look at the deal," 28 June 2019 Wu drew inspiration from midcentury design, but added his own updated spin: exposed-wood frames (a first for Interior Define) outline slivers of negative space, while brass endcaps add a bit of jewelry-like luxe. Emma Bazilian, House Beautiful, "Interior Define and Jason Wu Just Launched a Brand New Furniture Collection," 27 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

How the Gospels outline the greatest commandment, which is to love your neighbor as yourself. Dan Zak, Washington Post, "One of America’s top climate scientists is an evangelical Christian. She’s on a mission to convert skeptics.," 15 July 2019 Magaña outlined three main reasons fueling the increase. Kelly Tyko, USA TODAY, "Avocado prices are skyrocketing, but it's not because of tariffs," 11 July 2019 Mayor Dennis Hanwell outlined several possible bid specifications, including that the house must be removed from the property by Nov. 1 and must stay within the city limits. Allison Wood, cleveland.com, "Medina council denies Dominic’s rezoning; historic Huntington House up for bid," 9 July 2019 The report also outlined several instances where Mr. Trump tried to influence the investigation but people around him either refused or quietly allowed the matters to drop. CBS News, "Barr says Democrats will make "public spectacle" of Mueller testimony," 8 July 2019 In June the former military officer outlined his Douglass plan named after abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Tanya A. Christian, Essence, "Presidential Candidate Pete Buttigieg Unveils Walker-Lewis Plan Aimed At Encouraging Black Entrepreneurship," 8 July 2019 In his book, Raising an Organized Child, Dr. Korb outlines five steps to foster greater independence and help kids get themselves to take on more of their own responsibilities. Marisa Lascala, Good Housekeeping, "Your Kids Should Make Their Own Lunches Starting in Third Grade, This Doctor Says," 2 July 2019 These two specifically outline their testing, which can add confidence to the purchase. Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored, "Used Samsung Galaxy phones: A guide on where and how to buy one," 2 July 2019 The deal with Goodyear outlines the creation of at least 505 full-time manufacturing jobs paying at least $48,514 annually when including overtime and bonuses and paying 65% of employee health-insurance premiums. Joshua Bowling, azcentral, "Your questions about Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, Nike and the Goodyear plant deal, answered," 2 July 2019

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.

See More

First Known Use of outline


1662, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


circa 1790, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about outline

Statistics for outline

Last Updated

17 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for outline

The first known use of outline was in 1662

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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 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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


something desired as essential

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's that Smell?! Quiz

  • wide eyed dog smelling rose
  • Someone who is hircine smells like a:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!