• synonyms

great circle

  1. a circle on a spherical surface such that the plane containing the circle passes through the center of the sphere.Compare small circle.
  2. a circle of which a segment represents the shortest distance between two points on the surface of the earth.
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Origin of great circle

First recorded in 1585–95
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for great circle

Historical Examples

  • It is by no means improbable that Cabot, who was an expert navigator, knew that great-circle sailing gave the shorter course.

    In Northern Mists (Volume 2 of 2)

    Fridtjof Nansen

  • Our voyaging is only great-circle sailing, and the doctors prescribe for diseases of the skin merely.

  • This is not great-circle sailing, and the ship so navigated does not take the shortest path.

British Dictionary definitions for great circle

great circle

  1. a circular section of a sphere that has a radius equal to that of the sphereCompare small circle
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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

great circle in Science

great circle

  1. A circle on the surface of a sphere whose plane passes through the center of the sphere. The Earth's equator is a great circle on the sphere of the globe.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.