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[sur-kuh l] /ˈsɜr kəl/
a closed plane curve consisting of all points at a given distance from a point within it called the center. Equation: x 2 + y 2 = r 2 .
the portion of a plane bounded by such a curve.
any circular or ringlike object, formation, or arrangement:
a circle of dancers.
a ring, circlet, or crown.
the ring of a circus.
a section of seats in a theater:
dress circle.
the area within which something acts, exerts influence, etc.; realm; sphere:
A politician has a wide circle of influence.
a series ending where it began, especially when perpetually repeated; cycle:
the circle of the year.
Logic. an argument ostensibly proving a conclusion but actually assuming the conclusion or its equivalent as a premise; vicious circle.
a complete series forming a connected whole; cycle:
the circle of the sciences.
a number of persons bound by a common tie; coterie:
a literary circle; a family circle.
Government. an administrative division, especially of a province.
Geography. a parallel of latitude.
  1. (formerly) the orbit of a heavenly body.
  2. meridian circle.
Surveying. a glass or metal disk mounted concentrically with the spindle of a theodolite or level and graduated so that the angle at which the alidade is set may be read.
a sphere or orb:
the circle of the earth.
a ring of light in the sky; halo.
verb (used with object), circled, circling.
to enclose in a circle; surround; encircle:
Circle the correct answer on the exam paper. The enemy circled the hill.
to move in a circle or circuit around; rotate or revolve around:
He circled the house cautiously.
to change course so as to pass by or avoid collision with; bypass; evade:
The ship carefully circled the iceberg.
verb (used without object), circled, circling.
to move in a circle or circuit:
The plane circled for half an hour before landing.
Movies, Television. to iris (usually followed by in or out).
circle the wagons,
  1. (in the early U.S. West) to form the wagons of a covered-wagon train into a circle for defensive purposes, as against Indian attack.
  2. Slang. to prepare for an all-out, unaided defensive fight:
    The company has circled the wagons since its market share began to decline.
Origin of circle
before 1000; < Latin circulus, equivalent to circ(us) (see circus) + -ulus -ule; replacing Middle English cercle < Old French < Latin, as above; replacing Old English circul < Latin, as above
Related forms
circler, noun
intercircle, verb (used with object), intercircled, intercircling.
recircle, verb, recircled, recircling.
uncircled, adjective
undercircle, verb (used with object), undercircled, undercircling.
undercircle, noun
3. ring, halo, corona.
Synonym Study
11. Circle, club, coterie, set, society are terms applied to restricted social groups. A circle may be a little group; in the plural it often suggests a whole section of society interested in one mode of life, occupation, etc.: a sewing circle; a language circle; in theatrical circles. Club implies an association with definite requirements for membership and fixed dues: an athletic club. Coterie suggests a little group closely and intimately associated because of congeniality: a literary coterie. Set refers to a number of persons of similar background, interests, etc., somewhat like a clique (see ring1) but without disapproving connotations; however, it often implies wealth or interest in social activities: the country club set. A society is a group associated to further common interests of a cultural or practical kind: a Humane Society. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for circling
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He ran a short distance away from us, circling our cavalcade.

    A Woman Tenderfoot Grace Gallatin Seton-Thompson
  • Eudorus was up immediately and was circling around and around again.

    Buried Cities, Part 2 Jennie Hall
  • Grant hesitated, circling erratically with his victim close to the steps.

    Good Indian B. M. Bower
  • They were circling the white mountain, ascending its lower slope.

    Two Thousand Miles Below Charles Willard Diffin
  • It was proceeding slowly and seemed to be circling about us without approaching.

    The Flood Emile Zola
British Dictionary definitions for circling


(maths) a closed plane curve every point of which is equidistant from a given fixed point, the centre. Equation: (x –h)² + (y –k= r² where r is the radius and (h, k) are the coordinates of the centre; area πr²; circumference: 2πr
the figure enclosed by such a curve
(theatre) the section of seats above the main level of the auditorium, usually comprising the dress circle and the upper circle
something formed or arranged in the shape of a circle
a group of people sharing an interest, activity, upbringing, etc; set: golf circles, a family circle
a domain or area of activity, interest, or influence
a circuit
a process or chain of events or parts that forms a connected whole; cycle
a parallel of latitude See also great circle, small circle
the ring of a circus
one of a number of Neolithic or Bronze Age rings of standing stones, such as Stonehenge, found in Europe and thought to be associated with some form of ritual or astronomical measurement
(hockey) See striking circle
a circular argument See vicious circle (sense 2)
come full circle, to arrive back at one's starting point See also vicious circle
go round in circles, run round in circles, to engage in energetic but fruitless activity
to move in a circle (around): we circled the city by car
(transitive) to enclose in a circle; encircle
Derived Forms
circler, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Latin circulus a circular figure, from circus ring, circle
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for circling



c.1300, "figure of a circle," from Old French cercle "circle, ring (for the finger); hoop of a helmet or barrel" (12c.), from Latin circulus "circular figure; small ring, hoop; circular orbit" (also source of Italian cerchio), diminutive of circus "ring" (see circus).

Replaced Old English trendel and hring. Late Old English used circul, from Latin, but only in an astronomical sense. Meaning "group of persons surrounding a center of interest" is from 1714 (it also was a secondary sense of Latin circulus); that of "coterie" is from 1640s (a sense also found in Latin circulus). To come full circle is in Shakespeare.



late 14c., cerclen, "to shape like a globe," also "to encompass or surround," from circle (n.). From c.1400 as "to set in a circular pattern;" mid-15c. as "to move in a circle." Related: Circled; circling. To circle the wagons, figuratively, "assume an alert defensive stance" is from 1969, from old Western movies.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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circling in Medicine

circle cir·cle (sûr'kəl)

  1. A ring-shaped structure or group of structures.

  2. A line or process with every point equidistant from the center.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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circling in Science

A closed curve whose points are all on the same plane and at the same distance from a fixed point (the center).
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Idioms and Phrases with circling
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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