Definition of circle in English:


Line breaks: cir¦cle
Pronunciation: /ˈsəːk(ə)l


1A round plane figure whose boundary (the circumference) consists of points equidistant from a fixed point (the centre): draw a circle with a compass
More example sentences
  • In the normal geometry of flat space, the diameter of a circle is its circumference divided by pi.
  • Pi, the ratio between a circle's diameter and circumference, has fascinated mathematicians for centuries.
  • We will locate a marker on the circumference of a circle.
1.1Something in the shape of a circle: the lamp spread a circle of light they all sat round in a circle
More example sentences
  • I don't know how they get white meat packed into the neat circles or oval shapes that they make chicken sandwich out of.
  • When the petals fall a large circle of beautifully shaped brown seeds are left arrayed in spirograph formation.
  • The beam of light aimed at the circle was in the shape of a circle.
ring, round, band, hoop, circlet; halo, disc, wreath
technical annulus
1.2A dark circular mark below each eye caused by illness or tiredness: she was pale and rather beautiful, with dark circles around deep, exhausted eyes
More example sentences
  • His hair was wild, and dark circles hung below his eyes.
  • Her eyes were weary and bloodshot with deep dark circles under them.
  • I see dark circles under my bloodshot blue eyes and wrinkles from at least four years of undue stress.
1.3British A curved upper tier of seats in a theatre or cinema: she sat in the front row of the circle
More example sentences
  • The blueprint sees an auditorium retained, with seating in the circle on the first floor which could be used to watch theatre.
  • There were so many choir wannabes that they filled the choir platform, the stalls and the circle seats.
  • Even from my seat in the circle, Aida's blue eye-shadow looked excessive.
1.4 Hockey short for striking circle.
More example sentences
  • Pakistan lifted the tempo a notch after yesterday's match but lacked striking power in the circle in the first half.
2A group of people with a shared profession, interests, or acquaintances: she did not normally move in such exalted circles
More example sentences
  • I prefer a few close friends to a wide circle of acquaintances.
  • And at weekends they spend their hard-earned cash in pubs and clubs with a wide circle of interesting, cosmopolitan friends.
  • Little by little he forges around himself a circle of acquaintances and friends.
group, set, ring, company, body, coterie, clique; camp, league, faction; crowd, band, crew
informal gang, bunch, pack
sphere, world, milieu, arena, domain; society


[with object] Back to top  
1Move all the way around (someone or something), especially more than once: they were circling Athens airport (as adjective circling) a circling helicopter [no object]: we circled round the island
More example sentences
  • Round and around they circled each other, lunging, stepping back, attacking and then defending.
  • Two dogs were circling each other in the enclosed space.
  • Turning to a working radar, we immediately spotted little white dots circling nearby Alcatraz Island.
wheel, move round, move round in circles, revolve, rotate, whirl, spiral, gyratego round, walk round, travel round, circumnavigate; orbit, revolve round
1.1 [no object] (circle back) Move in a wide loop back towards one’s starting point: he paced away from her, then circled back
More example sentences
  • We circled back towards J Street, passing the St. Francis of Assisi church.
  • The offspring of the Manhattan Project are circling back toward Manhattan.
  • The dog first heads away from the road, then quickly circles back toward the family.
1.2Form a ring around: the abbey was circled by a huge wall
More example sentences
  • Seen from space, an aurora appears as a ring of energy circling a planet's polar region.
  • The steel fence circling the ‘promised land’ looked rather imposing.
  • Their house will be circled, surrounded.
1.3Draw a line around: circle the correct answers
More example sentences
  • As he held the classified section toward me, I noticed a hastily drawn line circling one of the ads.
  • Answer by circling the response that best describes you: Agree, Unsure, or Disagree
  • She went through the ads with her pen, circling some and putting a single line alongside others.


Old English, from Old French cercle, from Latin circulus 'small ring', diminutive of circus 'ring'.


circle the wagons

North American informal Unite in defence of a common interest: the Lakers quickly circled the wagons, against the Spurs and the crowd
[with reference to the defensive position of a wagon train under attack]
More example sentences
  • We seem to be circling the wagons for self-protection.
  • Conservatives circled the wagons around him after his comments about homosexuality.
  • We all went through some tough times together, but we really circled the wagons.

come (or turn) full circle

Return to a past position or situation, especially in a way considered to be inevitable: the region is being forced to come full circle and repeat the errors of its tragic past now it seems the wheel has turned full circle—the western is being revived
[with reference to Shakespeare's King Lear v. iii. 165, ‘The Wheele is come full circle’: by association with the wheel represented in mythology and literature as turned by Fortune and symbolizing mutability]
More example sentences
  • Her career came full circle with a return to cycling.
  • He has essentially come full circle, returning to the place where it all began some 17 years ago.
  • Mrs Glendinning has come full circle by returning to the school she attended as a pupil.

go (or run) round in circles

informal Do something for a long time without achieving anything but purposeless repetition: the discussion went round and round in circles
More example sentences
  • The inquiry went round in circles and I was no wiser.
  • We spent two hours arguing and going round in circles.
  • No-one seems to be taking responsibility for this and we're just going round in circles.

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