circumstance

noun
cir·​cum·​stance | \ ˈsər-kəm-ˌstan(t)s How to pronounce circumstance (audio) , -stən(t)s \

Definition of circumstance

1a : a condition, fact, or event accompanying, conditioning, or determining another : an essential or inevitable concomitant the weather is a circumstance to be taken into consideration
b : a subordinate or accessory (see accessory entry 2 sense 2) fact or detail cost is a minor circumstance in this case
c : a piece of evidence that indicates the probability or improbability of an event (such as a crime) the circumstance of the missing weapon told against him the circumstances suggest murder
2a : the sum of essential and environmental factors (as of an event or situation) constant and rapid change in economic circumstance— G. M. Trevelyan
b : state of affairs : eventuality open rebellion was a rare circumstance often used in plural a victim of circumstances
c circumstances plural : situation with regard to wealth he was in easy circumstances rose from difficult circumstances
3 : attendant formalities and ritualistic display especially as contrasted with essential procedure pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war— William Shakespeare
4 : an event that constitutes a detail (as of a narrative or course of events) considering each circumstance in turn

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for circumstance

Synonyms

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Choose the Right Synonym for circumstance

occurrence, event, incident, episode, circumstance mean something that happens or takes place. occurrence may apply to a happening without intent, volition, or plan. an encounter that was a chance occurrence event usually implies an occurrence of some importance and frequently one having antecedent cause. the events following the assassination incident suggests an occurrence of brief duration or secondary importance. a minor wartime incident episode stresses the distinctiveness or apartness of an incident. a brief romantic episode in a life devoted to work circumstance implies a specific detail attending an action or event as part of its setting or background. couldn't recall the exact circumstances

Examples of circumstance in a Sentence

I can't imagine a circumstance in which I would do that. The circumstances of his death are suspicious. She says that her client is a victim of circumstance and should not be blamed for the accident. He was a victim of circumstances.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web The 78-year-old also faces special circumstance allegations of killing a witness and lying in wait. Matthew Ormseth, Los Angeles Times, 14 Sep. 2021 Of course, that is not to deny the importance of circumstance. Peter Bergen, CNN, 11 Sep. 2021 Crozier finally did assume command, but in the worst of circumstance. David James, Anchorage Daily News, 11 Sep. 2021 Kyler Murray's late-season shoulder injury derailed a 6-3 start last year, but Kingsbury was not merely a victim of circumstance. Jeremy Cluff, The Arizona Republic, 10 Sep. 2021 If convicted of the charges and special-circumstance allegations, Gomez could face the death penalty. City News Service, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2 Sep. 2021 Propaganda by even the greatest masters of style is as much at the mercy of circumstance as propaganda by the worst journalists. Aldous Huxley, Harper's Magazine, 17 Aug. 2021 Tanya’s sense of herself as a victim of circumstance is so palpable that her treating the spa employee as a peer can look like an overture of real friendship. Daniel D'addario, Variety, 15 Aug. 2021 In these stories, tenants and landlords are both victims of circumstance, facing the same challenges. Esther Wang, The New Republic, 11 Aug. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'circumstance.' 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 circumstance

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for circumstance

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin circumstantia, from circumstant-, circumstans, present participle of circumstare to stand around, from circum- + stare to stand — more at stand

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About circumstance

Time Traveler for circumstance

Time Traveler

The first known use of circumstance was in the 13th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near circumstance

circumspectness

circumstance

circumstanced

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for circumstance

Last Updated

19 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Circumstance.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/circumstance. Accessed 24 Sep. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for circumstance

circumstance

noun

English Language Learners Definition of circumstance

: a condition or fact that affects a situation
: the way something happens : the specific details of an event
: an event or situation that you cannot control

circumstance

noun
cir·​cum·​stance | \ ˈsər-kəm-ˌstans How to pronounce circumstance (audio) \

Kids Definition of circumstance

1 : a fact or event that affects a situation Illness is the only circumstance that will excuse your absence.
2 circumstances plural : conditions at a certain time or place Under the circumstances, I think we did well.
3 circumstances plural : the way something happens Please explain the circumstances of the accident.
4 circumstances plural : the conditions in which someone lives "When the Lord puts us in certain circumstances He doesn't mean for us to imagine them away."— Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
5 : an uncontrollable event or situation a victim of circumstance

circumstance

noun
cir·​cum·​stance

Legal Definition of circumstance

1a : a condition, fact, or event accompanying, conditioning, or determining another must state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud or mistakeFederal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 9(b)
b : a piece of evidence that indicates the probability or improbability of an event a statement…offered to exculpate the accused is not admissible unless corroborating circumstances clearly indicate the trustworthiness of the statementState v. Lopez, 764 P.2d 1111 (1988)
2 plural : situation with regard to wealth the circumstances of the parties before the divorce

More from Merriam-Webster on circumstance

Nglish: Translation of circumstance for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of circumstance for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about circumstance

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Typeshift

Anagram puzzles meet word search.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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