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 One side displays the player's name and number, along with an outline of several iconic Washington, D.C., landmarks. Steve Gardner, USA TODAY, "Washington Nationals unveil 2019 World Series rings, which feature 170 diamonds, Baby Shark," 25 May 2020 There is an outline that would allow teams not in the playoff picture March 11, the day the season was paused, to play their way into the final seed. Jeff Mcdonald, ExpressNews.com, "As NBA eyes July return, Spurs remain in limbo," 25 May 2020 Step 4 Sketch an outline Pick a point on your object and — very slowly and carefully, while looking at your object a lot — start to sketch simple lines and curves of the object. Andy Wright, New York Times, "How to Draw in Six Steps," 6 May 2020 The administration has suggested sending Americans two rounds of checks, totaling $500 billion, arriving on April 6 and May 18, in equal value, according to an outline of the White House’s coronavirus stimulus plan obtained by Bloomberg News. Laura Litvan, Bloomberg.com, "Senate to Vote on House Virus Bill While Working on Bigger Plan," 5 May 2020 Ecatepec is an enormous municipality, covering nearly as much area as Mexico City, with no real center and an outline like a bomb blast. Seth Harp, Harper's Magazine, "In Harm’s Way," 27 Apr. 2020 Looking forward to the 2020 election, one can see an outline of the same dynamic coming into view. David Karpf, Wired, "Biden's Path to Victory Does Not Bode Well for Voters," 10 Apr. 2020 But John Hellerstedt, the state health commissioner who has been advising Abbott in the coronavirus response, said the state was prioritizing higher-level data on positives cases to obtain an outline of the infection spread in the state. Alex Ura, Dallas News, "Impacts of coronavirus on African-American, Hispanic Texans clouded by incomplete data," 9 Apr. 2020 But there was one piece in particular that truly stood out: A bubblegum pink T-shirt featuring an outline of Paris’s most famous It girl, the Mona Lisa. Liana Satenstein, Vogue, "Bella Hadid Wears the Ultimate Designer Tourist T-Shirt," 4 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The governor also outlined the plans for Week 5 reopening, expected to begin after Memorial Day, which will allow bars to open at 50 percent and museums, visitor centers, zoos, spas and massage businesses to open their doors. Fox News, "West Virginia governor reopening indoor dining, large retail stores and outdoor recreation businesses," 19 May 2020 Wilson's suit outlines three times in which Hankison arrested Wilson in 2016 and 2018, all of which originated at bars where Hankison sometimes worked as off-duty security. Tessa Duvall, The Courier-Journal, "Federal lawsuit calls officer in Breonna Taylor shooting a 'dirty cop' with a 'vendetta'," 18 May 2020 Dowden also outlined the possibility of matches being shown on free-to-air television in an attempt to stop people leaving their homes to try and watch games. Matias Grez, CNN, "Premier League clubs vote in favor of returning to training as 'Project Restart' edges closer," 18 May 2020 The legislation should have outlined the ways in which the Democratic Party believes a government should respond to a public health and economic crisis of this proportion. Nick Martin, The New Republic, "House Democrats Are Blowing Their Chance at Student Debt Relief," 18 May 2020 Ohio Health Department outlines how campgrounds can open, with cleaning requirements and occupancy limits in place. Marc Bona, cleveland, "Coronavirus timeline: May 9-15," 16 May 2020 An Associated Press photo update on May 12 showed outlined areas for the plate, pitcher’s mound and bases and the locations of the fence, along with progress on the scoreboard. Mark Schmetzer, Cincinnati.com, "Rockin' the Riverfront: It was a bumpy road en route to Riverfront Stadium construction," 16 May 2020 In an Atlantic piece this week, University of North Carolina professor Zeynep Tufekci outlines how social organization born from the city’s protest movement helped citizens mobilize to monitor virus hot spots and keep cases low. Grady Mcgregor, Fortune, "Why China will dominate the virus-free world," 15 May 2020 The families, medical experts and others also outlined the far-reaching consequences of decades of disinvestment in predominantly black neighborhoods. Duaa Eldeib, ProPublica, "Families Were Grieving and Planning Funerals. They Still Wanted to Share Their Stories.," 15 May 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

4 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Outline.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/outline. Accessed 4 Jun. 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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