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[sur-kuh m-skrahyb, sur-kuh m-skrahyb] /ˈsɜr kəmˌskraɪb, ˌsɜr kəmˈskraɪb/
verb (used with object), circumscribed, circumscribing.
to draw a line around; encircle:
to circumscribe a city on a map.
to enclose within bounds; limit or confine, especially narrowly:
Her social activities are circumscribed by school regulations.
to mark off; define; delimit:
to circumscribe the area of a science.
  1. to draw (a figure) around another figure so as to touch as many points as possible.
  2. (of a figure) to enclose (another figure) in this manner.
Origin of circumscribe
1350-1400; Middle English < Latin circumscrībere, equivalent to circum- circum- + scrībere to write
Related forms
circumscribable, adjective
circumscriber, noun
noncircumscribed, adjective
uncircumscribable, adjective
uncircumscribed, adjective
2. restrict, restrain, check, hamper, hinder. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for circumscribed
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Besides this its power of flotation—suspension in the air—is circumscribed.

    Flying Machines W.J. Jackman and Thos. H. Russell
  • He could not work, and the walks he could take were circumscribed.

    Changing Winds

    St. John G. Ervine
  • Her life had been circumscribed, her experiences of a simple sort.

  • The limited opportunities of small states have circumscribed his information.

    Nuts and Nutcrackers Charles James Lever
  • It is not darkened and circumscribed by the dusty notions of the clubs.

    Waiting for Daylight Henry Major Tomlinson
British Dictionary definitions for circumscribed


/ˌsɜːkəmˈskraɪb; ˈsɜːkəmˌskraɪb/
verb (transitive)
to restrict within limits
to mark or set the bounds of
to draw a geometric construction around (another construction) so that the two are in contact but do not intersect Compare inscribe (sense 4)
to draw a line round
Derived Forms
circumscribable, adjective
circumscriber, noun
Word Origin
C15: from Latin circumscrībere, from circum- + scrībere to write
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 circumscribed



late 14c., from Latin circumscribere "to make a circle around, encircle, draw a line around; limit, restrain, confine, set the boundaries of," from circum- "around" (see circum-) + scribere "write" (see script (n.)). Related: Circumscribed; circumscribing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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circumscribed in Medicine

circumscribed cir·cum·scribed (sûr'kəm-skrībd')
Bounded by a line; limited or confined.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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circumscribed in Science
To draw a figure around another figure so as to touch as many points as possible. A circle that is circumscribed around a triangle touches it at each of the triangle's three vertices.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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