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

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

Today, the details are different but the basic outline is eerily similar. Anna North, Vox, "The striking parallels between Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas," 14 Sep. 2018 The broad outlines of the proposal are identical to those that leaked late last year. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump’s Infrastructure ‘Plan’ Is Shoddily Built – and Sure to Collapse," 1 Feb. 2018 At Trump's invitation, Schumer went to the White House, and like Graham and Durbin before, thought Trump had agreed to the outlines of a deal, which included Democrats support for the wall, only to have Trump backtrack again, hours later. Jeff Darcy, cleveland.com, "It's Miller time in Trump White House: Darcy cartoon," 24 Jan. 2018 The federal agency didn't immediately provide information about the incident, but Washington County Sheriff's Office records provide an outline of what occurred. Jim Ryan, OregonLive.com, "ICE tries to arrest man at Washington County Courthouse, scuffle ensues," 4 June 2018 By April 2017, after additional meetings with Iranians, the outlines of a comprehensive deal are in place. Joby Warrick, Washington Post, "Hacked messages show Qatar appearing to pay hundreds of millions to free hostages," 28 Apr. 2018 The outline of the story is familiar by now, but the dozens of original interviews, combined with news coverage from the period, provide a compelling look not only at Obama’s political history but Chicago’s. 8. Mary Schmich, chicagotribune.com, "A good book, a clean window, a flower show: 9 things to enjoy right now," 13 Apr. 2018 Here's a rough outline of the night: Organizers award the medals for the last event. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "Here's How and When to Watch the 2018 Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony," 23 Feb. 2018 The outline of a new GroKo deal was relatively unambitious. The Economist, "The dwarfs’ uprisingThe SPD’s rank and file could block a new German grand coalition," 18 Jan. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Mazda is outlining ambitious plans for its future, which include a new architecture and new inline-six engines meant to take the brand upmarket. Joey Capparella, Car and Driver, "Mazda Is Going Big, Planning a New Rear-Wheel-Drive Platform and Inline-Six Engines," 9 May 2019 Gimenez was outlined ahead of this summer as a key option that could strengthen Arsenal's leaky defence. SI.com, "Real Madrid Plan Raid of Rivals With Move for £53m-Rated Atletico Madrid Defender," 31 May 2018 These laid the groundwork for a digital track-and-trace system, which will be outlined in full once the state’s weed agency, the Bureau of Cannabis Control, releases the final regulations in the next month or so. Nick Stockton, WIRED, "California Rules May Make Weed Shippers Report Themselves to the Feds," 13 May 2018 At Home Team Manager In addition to the customer-facing responsibilities outlined above, a Team Manager is assigned a group of Advisors to supervise and coach. Kathleen Corlett, Woman's Day, "How to Work for Apple Without Leaving Your House," 1 May 2019 The chatter is so incessant, in fact, that TLC released a full documentary last month outlining Markle and Middleton's relationship. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "A Royal Expert Told Us the Real Story Behind Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton's 'Feud'," 29 Mar. 2019 Whether Antarctic mass loss keeps worsening depends on choices made today, argues DeConto, who co-authored a separate paper in this week's Nature outlining two different visions for Antarctica's future in the year 2070. Chris Mooney, courant.com, "Antarctic ice loss has tripled in a decade. If that continues we are in serious trouble.," 13 June 2018 But the state’s public records law allows the release of other statements, such as Cruz’s cell phone video outlining his plans before the shooting. Rafael Olmeda, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Parkland shooter's lawyers and prosecutors debate release of confession," 9 June 2018 Combative and unapologetic, Pruitt spoke with the rapid-fire delivery of a trial lawyer when outlining his policy positions or addressing audiences. Washington Post, BostonGlobe.com, "Pruitt steps down as EPA head after ethics, management scandals," 6 July 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

8 May 2019

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 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

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).


highly pertinent or appropriate

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