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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for outline

Synonyms: Noun

contour, figure, silhouette

Synonyms: Verb

define, delineate, silhouette, sketch, trace

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The outline states the Office of Children & Family Success is partnering with nonprofits to establish transitional jobs and to create a Credible Mentor program pairing mentors with 10 young people each to help plan their personal development. Luke Broadwater, baltimoresun.com, "With Baltimore’s business leaders growing impatient, mayor reveals ‘Squeegee Alternative Plan’," 17 Sep. 2019 There are blues, fluorescent oranges and yellows splashed all over the ball, whilst the iconic Champions League stars stand out in white with solid black outlines. SI.com, "Champions League: adidas Unveil Official Ball for 2019/20 Group Stage Games," 17 Sep. 2019 Local union presidents who attended the UAW's National Council meeting Sunday in Detroit, which voted unanimously to go on strike, said Dittes and the bargaining committee did not offer them details of GM's offer or outline specific sticking points. Jamie L. Lareau, Detroit Free Press, "UAW leader says GM could have avoided strike: Here's how," 16 Sep. 2019 Castro, according to the outline published on his website, would enroll newborns and people who lose their insurance automatically in a Medicare-like plan as a default. Benjy Sarlin, NBC News, "What was going on between Biden and Castro on health care?," 13 Sep. 2019 In other cases, The Times related facility address points to the geographic outlines in county real estate files. Matt Stiles, www.latimes.com, "L.A. might ban homeless people from sleeping on many streets. What about your block?," 9 Sep. 2019 Draw iris and pupil circles on white pumpkins, trace iris outlines with linoleum cutter, and lightly etch lines from outer to inner edge of iris. Woman's Day Staff, Woman's Day, "Eye See You Pumpkins," 9 Sep. 2019 As scientists began to appreciate the importance of microbe-plant partnerships, at least in outline, many came to see the natural world as a cooperative, even communitarian kind of place. Quanta Magazine, "Soil’s Microbial Market Shows the Ruthless Side of Forests," 27 Aug. 2019 The report and the op-ed outline the policy changes Facebook has made in response to the audit over the last year. Kerry Flynn, CNN, "Facebook reveals policy changes to eliminate anti-conservative bias," 20 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Anastasiades faulted Turkey for scuttling a mediation effort by U.N. envoy Jane Holl Lute earlier this month aimed at outlining the parameters under which a fresh round of formal negotiations would begin. Washington Post, "Cyprus president: Turkey’s aim for control scuppers peace," 18 Sep. 2019 The memo concludes by outlining a tentative schedule for next year’s budget process. James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News, "Internal Dunleavy administration document suggests more budget cuts to come," 6 Sep. 2019 The letter outlining the reasons for Montoya’s dismissal also offers the most detailed look into the drug investigation that led to her arrest. Elise Schmelzer, The Denver Post, "Denver sheriff’s deputy fired following federal drug charges, relationship with former jail inmate," 5 Sep. 2019 Berezovsky sings a vaudeville number; the origins of polonium are outlined in verse. The Economist, "A bold new play about Alexander Litvinenko’s murder," 5 Sep. 2019 The hiring freeze was outlined in a memo to department heads this week and will remain in effect until further notice. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Chicago mayor institutes hiring free ahead of budget address," 23 Aug. 2019 Cyrus wrote in a later tweet after outlining some of her controversies. Ale Russian, PEOPLE.com, "Miley Cyrus Says She Was 'Kicked Off' Hotel Transylvania After Licking Liam Hemsworth's Penis Cake," 22 Aug. 2019 Of course, Kylie topped the outfit with a contemporary spin: Gucci futuristic specs that were outlined in pearls. Teen Vogue, "From Kylie Jenner to Rowan Blanchard, Milkmaid Fashion Is the New Trend We Can't Get Enough Of," 16 Aug. 2019 The entire story is outlined in a new case study in the journal BMJ Case Reports, published Monday. Maggie O'neill, Health.com, "This Man's Dentures Were Stuck in His Voice Box for 8 Days After a Routine Procedure," 13 Aug. 2019

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.

See More

First Known Use of outline


1662, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


circa 1790, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about outline

Statistics for outline

Last Updated

9 Oct 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for outline

The first known use of outline was in 1662

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


involving a confidence or trust

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Word Puzzles

  • alt 57589b2b4c6a3
  • Which answer pairs best with each of the following words? living, estate, club, music, road, mile
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!