[ sur-kuhl ]
/ ˈsɜr kəl /
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See synonyms for: circle / circled / circling on Thesaurus.com

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).
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Idioms about circle

    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

First recorded before 1000; Middle English cercle (from Old French cercle), Old English circul, both from Latin circulus, equivalent to circ(us) “circle, circular course, orbit” + -ulus diminutive ending; see circus, -ule)

synonym study for circle

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.


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is a basic definition of circle?

In geometry, a circle is a perfectly round shape—meaning any point around its curve is the same distance from its central point. Circle commonly refers to anything that’s approximately shaped like this, even if it’s not a perfect circle in geometric terms. The letter O is a circle. As a verb, circle means to surround something or to move in a circular pattern. The word circle has several other senses as a noun and a verb.

In math, a circle is one of the shapes that a student will learn about when studying geometry. A circle resembles the letter O or the symbol for zero (0). A circle consists of a closed curved line around a central point. Every point on the line is the same distance from the central point. This distance to the center is called the radius. The outer line that encloses the circle (or the length of this line) is called the circumference.

Real-life example: A circle is a basic shape that’s typically taught to young children along with other simple shapes, such as triangles, squares, and rectangles.

Used in a sentence: The math teacher taught the students how to measure the circumference of a circle. 

Outside of math, circle generally refers to any object, shape, or formation that resembles a ring. The adjective circular describes something that has the shape of a circle.

Real-life examples: Wedding rings, Hula-Hoops, Cheerios, and car tires are circles. Drum circles, poetry circles, and prayer circles involve people literally arranging themselves to form a ring shape. They can also be figurative circles, with people gathering in one place for a common purpose.

Used in a sentence: The children gathered in a circle around the litter of puppies. 

As a verb, circle means to surround something or to enclose it in a circle.

Real-life example: Schoolchildren are often asked to circle the correct answer on a test.

Used in a sentence: The police officers circled the building so that every exit was covered. 

Circle as a verb also means to move in a circle or a circular pattern around something.

Real-life example: Vultures and sharks often circle around things they are planning to eat.

Used in a sentence: She circled the house in search of her dropped car keys.

Where does circle come from?

The first records of circle come from before the year 1000. It comes from the Latin circulus, meaning “a circular figure” from circus, meaning “ring” or “circle.”

Yes, the English word circus shares an origin with circle. In ancient Rome, the word circus referred to a circular or oval-shaped arena where games, chariot races, and other events were held.

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What are some other forms related to circle?

  • circler (noun)
  • intercircle (verb)
  • recircle (verb)
  • uncircled (adjective)

What are some synonyms for circle?

What are some words that share a root or word element with circle

What are some words that often get used in discussing circle?

How is circle used in real life?

Circles are common shapes and circle is a common word that can be used in many different contexts.



Try using circle!

True or False?

If a dog is circling its food bowl, it is moving around it in a circular pattern.

How to use circle in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for circle

/ (ˈsɜːkəl) /

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

Derived forms of circle

circler, 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

Scientific definitions for circle

[ sûrkəl ]

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.

Other 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.