out·​line | \ ˈau̇t-ˌlīn \

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

For the barn quilt, draw an outline and then fill in with royal icing. Taylor Murray, Country Living, "Gingerbread Barn," 19 Nov. 2018 Dangerous world Republicans have had the call for constitutional carry in their party's platform, an outline of party beliefs that candidates do not always follow and are not bound by. Anna M. Tinsley, star-telegram, "Texas is new target for constitutional carry — the unlicensed carry of handguns — in 2019," 15 June 2018 An outline obtained by CNN suggests the solution will involve changing or reversing the court settlement at issue. Ashley Killough And Tal Kopan, CNN, "Lawmakers disagree over how to solve family separation at the border," 14 June 2018 There was no sign of an outline of an agreement under which North Korea would scale back or abandon its nuclear weapons program, and Kim appeared nervous about his personal safety and about the integrity of any long-term U.S. security guarantees. Matt Stiles, latimes.com, "Trump pulls out of planned nuclear summit, says he will be 'waiting' if North Korea changes its approach," 24 May 2018 Men Are Pigs’ was an outline for ‘Home Improvement’ and the translation was damn near perfect. Marcia Manna, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Tim Allen credits comedy as the reason he's still standing," 14 May 2018 And after years of problems, the only remnant of the park is an outline of a foundation spotted from a bird's-eye view on Google Earth. Dawn Mitchell, Indianapolis Star, "Bankruptcy doomed giant Hendricks County complex in 1990s that included a Garfield-themed park," 27 Apr. 2018 Director Tim Burton's version appears to follow the same general outline, with a few updates. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "New trailer for Disney’s live-action Dumbo captures magic of original," 15 Nov. 2018 That deal, the outlines of which were previously announced, requires South Korea to limit exports to the U.S. in exchange for an exemption from tariffs. John Fritze, USA TODAY, "Trump extends exemptions on steel, aluminum tariffs," 30 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Victoria Davis from Juul said only that the company will outline its plans in the proposal the company intends to submit to the FDA shortly. Rachel Becker, The Verge, "FDA asks e-cigarette giants to help regulate themselves," 31 Oct. 2018 Glenview School District 34 will start creating a new strategic plan in August that will outline the district’s future needs and goals, according to the district superintendent. Alexandra Kukulka, chicagotribune.com, "District 34 to start strategic plan process in August," 3 July 2018 The next step is to get a development agreement with the orchestra that will outline the where and what. Scott Wartman, Cincinnati.com, "The Banks concert venue: What's next," 20 June 2018 Copy and paste a few paragraphs into the site’s text box, and the editor will outline problematic parts such as long sentences, obscure words, and confusing passages. 14. Kim Komando, USA TODAY, "15 tech upgrades you can get for free," 15 June 2018 In addition, Pichai outlined four areas where Google will not develop or deploy AI. Kevin Kelleher, Fortune, "Google Makes a Vague Pledge to Limit Work on Artificial Intelligence in Weapons, Surveillance," 7 June 2018 The company will outline its software plans for Macs, iPhones, iPads, and much more. Samuel Axon, Ars Technica, "Liveblog: Apple’s WWDC 2018 keynote," 4 June 2018 Rosenthal asked the parties to prepare a joint proposal and to outline areas where their suggestions differ. Gabrielle Banks, Houston Chronicle, "Appeals court rules Harris County revised bail order can move forward," 1 June 2018 Thomas Abood, chairman of the Archdiocesan Finance Council and Reorganization Task Force, said the settlement will be outlined in greater detail when it is filed in court. Time, "Minnesota Archdiocese to Pay Clergy Abuse Victims the Catholic Church's Second-Largest Payout Ever," 1 June 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

16 Jan 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 \

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).


to settle judicially or to act as judge

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