Definition of circumscribe in English:



[with object]
  • 1Restrict (something) within limits.

    ‘the minister's powers are circumscribed both by tradition and the organization of local government’
    • ‘Private patriarchy became increasingly circumscribed by laws that undermined male authority within the family.’
    • ‘Our civilian justice system has taken the view that the police should be carefully circumscribed in their ability to question suspects.’
    • ‘The agency strictly circumscribes all public utterances by members of the Imperial Family.’
    • ‘It was a period when French cinema was strictly circumscribed by the German occupiers and consisted largely of boulevard comedies.’
    • ‘From the earliest days of the new state there were efforts to circumscribe local authority powers.’
    • ‘Apart from forest controls, colonial regulations sharply circumscribed elephant hunting and ivory procurement at the turn of the century.’
    • ‘France will soon be setting new and controversial standards in circumscribing citizens' rights.’
    • ‘His ability to pursue a confrontational policy is severely circumscribed.’
    • ‘They see risks but are not convinced that the risks justify circumscribing popular control by overtly undemocratic means.’
    • ‘Such delineation serves a controlling function, circumscribing the legal role women may play.’
    • ‘The Egyptian system has allowed a carefully circumscribed amount of competition for legislative seats.’
    • ‘In the cold war, conventional doctrine held that the fear of mutual destruction would forever circumscribe escalation beyond the conventional battlefield.’
    • ‘His authority is circumscribed by the advisory jurisdiction of the cabinet.’
    • ‘Conversations about race in this country are circumscribed enough as it is, so I'm very uneasy with suggesting further constraints.’
    • ‘The practice is severely circumscribed and tightly regulated.’
    • ‘New Zealand's democracy is quite unusual in that, rather than attempting to circumscribe popular power in order to prevent ‘mob rule’, it trusts the people.’
    • ‘He sets the fashions and opinion of taste, dictates the limitations of speech and circumscribes conduct.’
    • ‘Both these bills use the pretext of real traumas to circumscribe freedom of opinion.’
    • ‘If one assigns to the authorities the power to imprison or even to kill people, one must restrict and clearly circumscribe this power.’
    • ‘A political party is a team of individuals circumscribed by very similar parameters.’
    restrict, limit, impose limits on, set limits on, keep within bounds, delimit, curb, confine, bound, restrain
    View synonyms
  • 2Geometry
    Draw (a figure) round another, touching it at points but not cutting it.

    ‘if a hexagon is circumscribed about a circle the lines joining opposite vertices meet in one point’
    Compare with inscribe
    • ‘This he obtained by circumscribing and inscribing a circle with regular polygons having 96 sides.’
    • ‘The same circle circumscribes both the pentagon of the dodecahedron.’


Late Middle English: from Latin circumscribere, from circum ‘around’ + scribere ‘write’.