verb (used with object), cir·cled, cir·cling.

verb (used without object), cir·cled, cir·cling.

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. 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 formscir·cler, nounin·ter·cir·cle, verb (used with object), in·ter·cir·cled, in·ter·cir··cir·cle, verb, re·cir·cled, re·cir·cling.un·cir·cled, adjectiveun·der·cir·cle, verb (used with object), un·der·cir·cled, un·der·cir·cling.un·der·cir·cle, noun

Synonyms for circle

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 Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for circle

Contemporary Examples of circle

Historical Examples of circle

  • And then, by chance, the circle of Andy's sight embraced the body of a horseman.

  • When we get to the circle of 'em, because they're all round the cabin, we'll drive at 'em together.

  • He sat in the midst of a circle of lamplighters, and was the cacique, or chief of the tribe.

    The Lamplighter

    Charles Dickens

  • Such questions were always a signal for an unlocking of tongues around the circle.

  • I've run in a circle, Allister, and now I'm back to make one of you, if you still want me.

British Dictionary definitions for circle



maths a closed plane curve every point of which is equidistant from a given fixed point, the centre. Equation: (x –h)² + (y –k= r ² where r is the radius and (h, k) are the coordinates of the centre; area πr²; circumference: 2π r
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; setgolf 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 latitudeSee 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 argumentSee vicious circle (def. 2)
come full circle to arrive back at one's starting pointSee also vicious circle
go round in circles or run round in circles to engage in energetic but fruitless activity


to move in a circle (around)we circled the city by car
(tr) to enclose in a circle; encircle
Derived Formscircler, noun

Word Origin for circle

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

Word Origin and History for circle

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

Medicine definitions for circle




A ring-shaped structure or group of structures.
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.

Science definitions for circle



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 © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with circle


see full circle; go around (in circles); run around (in circles); run rings (circles) around; vicious circle.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.