en·​croach in-ˈkrōch How to pronounce encroach (audio)
encroached; encroaching; encroaches

intransitive verb

: to enter by gradual steps or by stealth into the possessions or rights of another
: to advance beyond the usual or proper limits
the gradually encroaching sea
encroacher noun
encroachment noun

Did you know?

The history behind encroach is likely to hook you in. The word derives from the Middle English encrochen, which means "to get or seize." The Anglo-French predecessor of encrochen is encrocher, which was formed by combining the prefix en- ("in") with the noun croche ("hook"). Croche also gave us our word crochet, in reference to the hooked needle used in that craft. Encroach carries the meaning of "intrude," both in terms of privilege or property. The word can also hop over legal barriers to describe a general advancement beyond desirable or normal limits (such as a hurricane that encroaches on the mainland).

Choose the Right Synonym for encroach

trespass, encroach, infringe, invade mean to make inroads upon the property, territory, or rights of another.

trespass implies an unwarranted or unlawful intrusion.

hunters trespassing on farmland

encroach suggests gradual or stealthy entrance upon another's territory or usurpation of another's rights or possessions.

the encroaching settlers displacing the native peoples

infringe implies an encroachment clearly violating a right or prerogative.

infringing a copyright

invade implies a hostile and injurious entry into the territory or sphere of another.

accused of invading their privacy

Example Sentences

The suburbs encroach further into the rural areas each year. each year the sea continues to encroach upon the island's beaches
Recent Examples on the Web Encounters between pythons and humans are becoming more common in Indonesia as people encroach on their habitats, which have come increasingly under threat, snake experts say. Leo Sands, Washington Post, 26 Oct. 2022 Ahead of Lukashenko's most recent visit to Moscow last week, the Belorusian leader said that troops would be deployed if Ukrainians encroach on their territory. Paul Best, Fox News, 21 Feb. 2023 While men with guns hunted cats, the locals continued to encroach on the animals' natural habitat, coming into conflict with them and eating their traditional prey, as political turmoil drove people farther into the countryside. Jenni Marsh, CNN, 15 Aug. 2020 Deforestation for the purpose of planting crops has been the main culprit of human expansion over the last century, but communities are also beginning to encroach farther into forests to hunt bushmeat, such as lemurs, Valente said. Julia Jacobo, ABC News, 10 Jan. 2023 The greater injustice is how PD 830 has allowed density to encroach on existing neighborhoods and undercut what little affordable housing is left in North Oak Cliff. Dallas News, 18 Mar. 2022 The ability to make phone calls on flights will be just another way our fellow passengers can encroach on our personal space and peace while flying. Condé Nast Traveller, Condé Nast Traveler, 8 Dec. 2022 One of Lauren Waters's main goals in this Tribeca loft project was to carve out a comfortable work-from-home space that didn't encroach on the living room. Hadley Mendelsohn, House Beautiful, 29 Nov. 2022 Their goal is to keep Russia from attempting to encroach on the cities of Kramatorsk and Slovyansk. Isabelle Khurshudyan, Washington Post, 7 Dec. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'encroach.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English encrochen to get, seize, from Anglo-French encrocher, from en- + croc, croche hook — more at crochet

First Known Use

1528, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of encroach was in 1528


Dictionary Entries Near encroach

Cite this Entry

“Encroach.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/encroach. Accessed 31 Mar. 2023.

Kids Definition


en·​croach in-ˈkrōch How to pronounce encroach (audio)
: to enter or force oneself on another's property or rights little by little
: to advance beyond the usual or desirable limits
the gradually encroaching sea
encroachment noun

Legal Definition


intransitive verb
en·​croach in-ˈkrōch How to pronounce encroach (audio)
: to enter especially gradually or stealthily into the possessions or rights of another
encroaches on an adjoining property

Anglo-French encrocher, probably alteration of acrocher to catch hold of, seize, usurp, from Old French, from a-, prefix stressing goal + croc hook

More from Merriam-Webster on encroach

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