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

Synonyms for outline

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb

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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

Noun 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. Verb 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 Once a homeowner sells, transfers or refinances their house, according to the program’s outline, the owner would pay back to the revolving fund an amount equal to 17% of the home’s current value — even if the amount is larger than the initial loan. Hannah Wileystaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 11 May 2022 Then, using her hot wax pen, Janik covers the etched outline in wax before dipping the egg in her first color choice. Lauren Wethington, Detroit Free Press, 16 Apr. 2022 But there are nearly infinite variants on the basic outline. John Timmer, Ars Technica, 15 Apr. 2022 The policy outline released Monday is a reboot of a three-year-old bill introduced by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). Rachel Cohrs, STAT, 14 Apr. 2022 Land use and development plans in the General Plan update outline ways the city could add 3,000 new single-family homes and 1,500 accessory dwellings in existing neighborhoods by 2050. Phil Diehl, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3 Apr. 2022 According to the release, a n​umber of former Trump White House officials, conservative leaders and longtime Pence advisers were involved in crafting the policy outline. Gabby Orr, CNN, 31 Mar. 2022 That can potentially prompt an alarm if the contours of a person’s body do not match the generic outline that the software expects. New York Times, 31 Mar. 2022 But even with the outline to refer back to, skin-care layering is not a one-size-fits-all system, and there are certainly exceptions. Rio Viera-newton, Vogue, 21 Mar. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Biden is expected to outline in more detail the types of security assistance the U.S. is providing, including anti-armor and air defense systems, a White House official said ahead of the remarks. NBC News, 16 Mar. 2022 The new guidance is expected to outline how the country should move into the next phase of the pandemic, with a shifted focus from daily spread in a community to the more severe impacts of the virus, like hospitalizations and health care strain. Cheyenne Haslett, ABC News, 24 Feb. 2022 He is expected to outline how the legislation will help spur adoption of electric vehicles. Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press, 17 Nov. 2021 Biden is expected to outline how the legislation will help spur adoption of electric vehicles. Editors, USA TODAY, 17 Nov. 2021 The capital budget proposal appears, in large part, to follow recommendations made by the District Task Force on Jails and Justice, an independent advisory board convened in 2019 to outline a correctional plan for the city. Washington Post, 9 Feb. 2022 Adams, a Democrat like de Blasio, planned a news conference later Thursday to outline his pandemic plan. Karen Matthews, Anchorage Daily News, 30 Dec. 2021 August 2, 2010 - Senators Lautenberg and Robert Menendez hold a press conference to outline their plan to press for more information about the 2009 release of al Megrahi. CNN, 23 Dec. 2021 The market will also tap the Yard and Company firm to outline a $150,000 strategic plan, which will help determine the market's future in the changing area of East Market Street. Amelia Pak-harvey, The Indianapolis Star, 7 Dec. 2021 See More

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.

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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Time Traveler for outline

Time Traveler

The first known use of outline was in 1662

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Dictionary Entries Near outline

out like a light



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Statistics for outline

Last Updated

14 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Outline.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/outline. Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for outline


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

More from Merriam-Webster on outline

Nglish: Translation of outline for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of outline for Arabic Speakers


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