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 While attending Black Lives Matter protests and a virtual meeting with parents and students from high schools across her district, Murphy took mental notes that would help her outline a new law. Sahar Akbarzai, CNN, "New Jersey is the latest state to require schools to offer courses on diversity and unconscious bias," 11 Apr. 2021 Two days after the moderates unveiled their outline, Ms. Collins, Ms. Murkowski, Mr. Romney and Senator Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana, met with Mr. McConnell in his spacious Capitol office suite to brief the leader on their plan. New York Times, "A Dinner, a Deal and Moonshine: How the Stimulus Came Together," 21 Dec. 2020 Its hulking outline is a constant reminder of Copenhagen’s commitment to being carbon-neutral by 2025. Sara Chodosh And Andrew Rosenblum, Popular Science, "The wildest engineering innovations of 2020," 3 Dec. 2020 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb There are many white papers and blogs that outline the strengths and weaknesses of ETL and ELT. Sachin Smotra, Forbes, "Is ELT The Ultimate Replacement For ETL? (Part I)," 4 May 2021 There are sections that outline how to open a food truck or other mobile food service establishment. BostonGlobe.com, "You have an idea for a great restaurant in Rhode Island. Now what?," 4 May 2021 On April 13, the community affairs committee voted, 6-2, to deny the application because of Zierath's public behavior, police reports that outline multiple reports of calls to his restaurants and testimony from alderpeople and nearby neighbors. Evan Casey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Wauwatosa council changes course and approves plans for Zierath restaurant, Hermanas," 21 Apr. 2021 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

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

14 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Outline.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/outline. Accessed 18 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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