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 Upon completion of your outline, redefine your purpose. Michael Murphy, Forbes, "How Business Leaders Can Write A Book To Pass On Life Lessons," 28 Apr. 2021 The price of the Republicans’ two-page outline came in at $568 billion over five years, compared to the $2.3 trillion that Biden has called for spending over eight years. Kevin Freking And Lisa Mascaro, chicagotribune.com, "Countering Biden, a group of Senate Republicans pitch $568 billion for infrastructure," 22 Apr. 2021 Here's some of the outline of what this Caucus would look like in Congress. NBC News, "Meet the Press - April 18, 2021," 18 Apr. 2021 Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and Iraqi Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani negotiate a framework deal that includes an outline for a direct pipeline export of oil and gas. Cnn Editorial Research, CNN, "Kurdish People Fast Facts," 13 Apr. 2021 President Biden this month unveiled a $1.52 trillion budget outline focused on climate change and infrastructure. Nick Kostov, WSJ, "French Firms Strike $15.5 Billion Deal to Create Water, Waste-Management Behemoth," 12 Apr. 2021 The appropriations process was one of the few consistent success stories of former President Donald Trump's tumultuous four-year tenure in office, but this year's budget cycle is not governed by the formal spending caps of a broader outline. Josh Boak, Star Tribune, "Biden budget seeks more for schools, health care and housing," 9 Apr. 2021 It’s the first financial outline of Democrats’ broader ambitions since the expiration of a 2011 law that capped congressional spending. Josh Boak, chicagotribune.com, "President Biden seeks more for schools, health care and housing in $1.5 trillion wish list for the federal budget," 9 Apr. 2021 The package also includes $25 million for fortifying older homes that weren’t built using fire-resistance methods required during construction over the last decade, according to an outline provided by legislative staff. Julia Wick, Los Angeles Times, "Essential California: ‘Fire season has already started’," 9 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Google used tape on the floor of a warehouse space to outline different rooms. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, "Who wore it best? Rating Big Tech’s product debuts," 23 Oct. 2020 Trustees pulled the rezoning application and instead began the process to rezone it to a Planned Unit Development to outline specific uses for the property. Sue Kiesewetter, The Enquirer, "Liberty Twp. administration building is back on the market," 13 Apr. 2021 Hallmarks of the style are dramatically displayed here: There is a two-story portico, three-bay facade and decorative wrought-iron railings that outline the veranda. oregonlive, "Loomis armored car founder’s Portland mansion is for sale at $3.2 million," 1 Apr. 2021 Ferrellgas, a national propane gas provider, and its tank exchange brand made a presentation to the Bloomfield Economic Development Committee recently to outline its proposal. Steven Goode, courant.com, "Blue Rhino considers building production facility in Bloomfield," 17 Mar. 2021 The Allman team works closely with homeowners to outline their move. Dallas News, "Buyers and sellers capitalize on the real estate market," 14 Mar. 2021 One thing a big food company like CAG can probably outline for analysts is the situation around input costs, especially with the price of many agricultural commodities on the rise. Jj Kinahan, Forbes, "Delayed Reaction: Three Days After Blowout Jobs Report, Stocks Enjoy Tailwind," 5 Apr. 2021 The meeting will also focus on continued implementation and communication on Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, as well as outline the role many Cabinet members will play on infrastructure, according to a White House official. Molly Nagle, ABC News, "Biden to hold 1st Cabinet meeting the day after proposing sweeping infrastructure plan," 1 Apr. 2021 The rule sought to lower the risk of catastrophic failures, protect groundwater and outline best practices for shuttering ash ponds. Max Blau, ProPublica, "The Coal Plant Next Door," 22 Mar. 2021

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

2 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Outline.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/outline. Accessed 11 May. 2021.

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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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