en·​ve·​lope | \ ˈen-və-ˌlōp How to pronounce envelope (audio) , ˈän- How to pronounce envelope (audio) \

Definition of envelope

1 : a flat usually paper container (as for a letter)
2 : something that envelops : wrapper the envelope of air around the earth
3a : the outer covering of an aerostat
b : the bag containing the gas in a balloon or airship
4a : a natural enclosing covering (such as a membrane, shell, or integument)
b : a lipoprotein unit membrane that forms the outer layer of some virions
5a : a curve tangent to each of a family of curves
b : a surface tangent to each of a family of surfaces
6 : a set of performance limits (as of an aircraft) that may not be safely exceeded also : the set of operating parameters that exists within these limits
7 : a conventionally accepted limit new computers that push the envelope

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How do you pronounce envelope?: Usage Guide

The \ˈen-\ and \ˈän-\ pronunciations are used with about equal frequency, and both are fully acceptable, though the \ˈän-\ version is sometimes decried as "pseudo-French." Actually \ˈän-\ is exactly what one would expect to hear when a French word like entrepreneur is becoming anglicized. Envelope, however, has been in English for nearly 300 years, plenty of time for it to become completely anglicized and for both of its pronunciations to win respectability.

Examples of envelope in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In addition, the legislation, which will be introduced at the Board of Supervisors next week, would relax density limits so that builders could squeeze more apartments into a building envelope. J.k. Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle, 12 Oct. 2021 The magazine prides itself on creating content that goes for new angles on classic ideas or pushes the envelope of the typical Dungeons & Dragons game into high fantasy. Rob Wieland, Forbes, 8 Oct. 2021 Without any sense of irony, Tanya leaves an envelope of cash on the table for Belinda as a misguided thank you gift. Annie Goldsmith, Town & Country, 16 Aug. 2021 In his stead, his 40-year-old step-nephew Omar arrived, riding a Ducati and bearing an envelope of maintenance money, dark good looks and dangerous ideas about entertaining a vulnerable teenage girl. Washington Post, 9 Aug. 2021 An envelope of white keeps the kitchen light and airy while bright blue paint on the island provides happy energy. Sally Finder Weepie, Better Homes & Gardens, 30 July 2021 Just stuff a bunch of weird, random things into an envelope and pull them all out to reveal the answer. Evan Grant, Dallas News, 13 June 2021 Now, an absentee voter puts a ballot into an envelope that includes a form on it that serves as both an application for a ballot and a certification stating who filled out the ballot. Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9 June 2021 These clouds float along in a gaseous envelope of hydrogen and heliumm, creating Jupiter's famous marbled appearance. Elizabeth Gamillo, Smithsonian Magazine, 19 May 2021

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

circa 1714, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for envelope

Time Traveler

The first known use of envelope was circa 1714

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Dictionary Entries Near envelope



envelope stamp

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Statistics for envelope

Last Updated

18 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Envelope.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/envelope. Accessed 24 Oct. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of envelope

: an enclosing cover for a letter, card, etc.


en·​ve·​lope | \ ˈen-və-ˌlōp How to pronounce envelope (audio) , ˈän- \

Kids Definition of envelope

: a flat usually paper container (as for a letter)


en·​ve·​lope | \ ˈen-və-ˌlōp How to pronounce envelope (audio) , ˈän- How to pronounce envelope (audio) \

Medical Definition of envelope

: a natural enclosing covering (as a membrane or integument) especially : a lipoprotein unit membrane that forms the outer layer of some virions and surrounds the viral capsid These glycoprotein complexes, swept up by the budding virus as it acquires its envelope, are crucial to HIV's ability to infect new cells. — William A. Haseltine et al., Scientific American, October 1988


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