Definition of circle in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈsərk(ə)l/
(abbreviation cir. or circ.)


1A round plane figure whose boundary (the circumference) consists of points equidistant from a fixed point (the center).
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 around 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.
halo, disc
technical annulus
1.2A dark circular mark below each eye, typically caused by illness or tiredness.
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.
1.3A curved upper tier of seats in a theater. See also dress circle.
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.
2A group of people with shared professions, 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.


[with object]
1Move all the way around (someone or something), especially more than once: the two dogs circle each other with hackles raised [no object]: we circled around 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 around, revolve, rotate, whirl, spiral
go around, travel around, circumnavigate;
1.1 [no object] (circle back) Move in a wide loop back toward one’s starting point.
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 monastery 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.



circle the wagons

North American informal (Of a group) unite in defense of a common interest.
With reference to the defensive position of a wagon train under attack
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.
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 around (or around and around) in circles

informal Do something for a long time without achieving anything but purposeless repetition: the discussion went around and around 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.

run around in circles

informal Be fussily busy with little result.
Example sentences
  • Industrious, we run around in circles, squeaking.
  • It seems like the show just runs around in circles constantly, and the characters are stagnant.
  • We have to book pantomimes and plays yearly in advance but the uncertainty over the town hall's future means we are running around in circles.

the wheel has turned (or come) full circle

The situation has returned to what it was in the past, as if completing a cycle.
With reference to Shakespeare's King Lear, by association with the wheel fabled to be turned by Fortune and representing mutability
Example sentences
  • Now the wheel has turned full circle and films set in Scotland are more likely to embrace urban realism.
  • Forty years ago it all seemed most unlikely, but today the wheel has turned full circle.
  • But, as happens so often in history, the wheel has turned full circle.


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

  • The root of circle is Latin circulus ‘small ring’, from circus ‘ring’, the source of our word circus (Late Middle English). A Roman circus was a rounded or oval arena lined with tiers of seats, where chariot races, gladiatorial combats, and other, often cruel, contests took place. Names like Piccadilly Circus were attached to open, more or less circular areas in towns where streets converged. Other words from the same root include circuit (Late Middle English) from Latin circum ire ‘go around’, and circulate (Late Middle English) ‘move in a circular path’. Come or turn full circle is a reference to ‘The Wheele is come full circle’ in Shakespeare's King Lear. The wheel is the one thought of as being turned by the goddess Fortune and symbolizing change.

Words that rhyme with circle


For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: cir·cle

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