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See more synonyms for periphery on Thesaurus.com
noun, plural pe·riph·er·ies.
  1. the external boundary of any surface or area.
  2. the external surface of a body.
  3. the edge or outskirts, as of a city or urban area.
  4. the relatively minor, irrelevant, or superficial aspects of the subject in question: The preliminary research did not, of course, take me beyond the periphery of my problem.
  5. Anatomy. the area in which nerves end.
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Origin of periphery

1350–1400; < Late Latin peripherīa < Greek periphéreia circumference, literally, a bearing round, equivalent to peri- peri- + phér(ein) to bear1 + -eia -y3; replacing Middle English periferie < Medieval Latin periferīa, variant spelling of Late Latin peripherīa


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1, 2. center.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

perimeter, fringe, rim, brink, verge, ambit, circuit, covering, margin, circumference, skirt, outside, edge, brim, compass, hem, boundary, border

Examples from the Web for periphery

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Even chiaroscuros, with their few sober tones, fell into this periphery.

  • So the intervals will be equal in the directions both of the periphery and of the length.

  • So a circle is a figure: Because it is a plaine every way bounded with one periphery.

  • Draw a periphery by three points, which doe not fall in a right line.

  • A tangent is but one onely in that point of the periphery Schoner.

British Dictionary definitions for periphery


noun plural -eries
  1. the outermost boundary of an area
  2. the outside surface of something
  3. anatomy the surface or outermost part of the body or one of its organs or parts
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Word Origin

C16: from Late Latin peripherīa, from Greek, from peri- + pherein to bear
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 periphery


late 14c., "atmosphere around the earth," from Old French periferie (Modern French périphérie), from Medieval Latin periferia, from Late Latin peripheria, from Greek peripheria "circumference, outer surface, line round a circular body," literally "a carrying around," from peripheres "rounded, moving round, revolving," peripherein "carry or move round," from peri- "round about" (see peri-) + pherein "to carry" (see infer). Meaning "outside boundary of a surface" attested in English from 1570s; general sense of "boundary" is from 1660s.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

periphery in Medicine


  1. The outermost part or region within a precise boundary; the part away from center.
  2. The outer surface of a solid.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.