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[out-lahyn] /ˈaʊtˌlaɪn/
the line by which a figure or object is defined or bounded; contour.
a drawing or sketch restricted to line without shading or modeling of form.
a general sketch, account, or report, indicating only the main features, as of a book, subject, or project:
an outline of medieval history; an outline of a speech.
outlines, the essential features or main aspects of something under discussion:
At the first meeting, we gave her only the outlines of the project.
Printing. an ornamented type in which the outside contours of each character appear in black, with the inside left white.
verb (used with object), outlined, outlining.
to draw the outline of, or draw in outline, as a figure or object.
to give an outline of; sketch the main features of:
On the first day, the professor just outlined the course for us.
Origin of outline
1655-65; out- + line1
Related forms
preoutline, noun, verb (used with object), preoutlined, preoutlining.
reoutline, verb (used with object), reoutlined, reoutlining.
well-outlined, adjective
1. See form. 3. plan, draft, rough, synopsis, summary. 6, 7. delineate, draft. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for outlining
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • I can best give an idea of the secret of our mediocrity as a business organization by outlining a typical day in our offices.

    Of All Things Robert C. Benchley
  • The outlining and coloring of the figures is most interesting.

  • McClellan had come into possession of Lees general order, outlining the campaign.

    The Civil War Through the Camera Henry W. (Henry William) Elson
  • This is a useful tool for outlining a pattern or veining leaves.

    A Manual of Wood Carving Charles G. Leland
  • She was outlining the petal of an embroidered flower; and she gave this work her whole attention.

    The Sea Bride Ben Ames Williams
British Dictionary definitions for outlining


a preliminary or schematic plan, draft, account, etc
(usually pl) the important features of an argument, theory, work, etc
the line by which an object or figure is or appears to be bounded
  1. a drawing or manner of drawing consisting only of external lines
  2. (as modifier): an outline map
verb (transitive)
to draw or display the outline of
to give the main features or general idea of
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 outlining



1660s, "lines by which a figure is delineated," from out + line (v.). Meaning "rough draft in words" is from 1759.


1790, "to draw in outline," from outline (n.). Meaning "to describe in general terms" is from 1855. Related: Outlined; outlining.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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