Definition of circumscribe in English:



  • 1Restrict (something) within limits.

    ‘the minister's powers are circumscribed both by tradition and the organization of local government’
    • ‘In the cold war, conventional doctrine held that the fear of mutual destruction would forever circumscribe escalation beyond the conventional battlefield.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘From the earliest days of the new state there were efforts to circumscribe local authority powers.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘France will soon be setting new and controversial standards in circumscribing citizens' rights.’
    • ‘Both these bills use the pretext of real traumas to circumscribe freedom of opinion.’
    • ‘They see risks but are not convinced that the risks justify circumscribing popular control by overtly undemocratic means.’
    • ‘His ability to pursue a confrontational policy is severely circumscribed.’
    • ‘He sets the fashions and opinion of taste, dictates the limitations of speech and circumscribes conduct.’
    • ‘A political party is a team of individuals circumscribed by very similar parameters.’
    • ‘If one assigns to the authorities the power to imprison or even to kill people, one must restrict and clearly circumscribe this power.’
    • ‘Apart from forest controls, colonial regulations sharply circumscribed elephant hunting and ivory procurement at the turn of the century.’
    • ‘Private patriarchy became increasingly circumscribed by laws that undermined male authority within the family.’
    • ‘His authority is circumscribed by the advisory jurisdiction of the cabinet.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It was a period when French cinema was strictly circumscribed by the German occupiers and consisted largely of boulevard comedies.’
    • ‘Conversations about race in this country are circumscribed enough as it is, so I'm very uneasy with suggesting further constraints.’
    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
    • ‘The same circle circumscribes both the pentagon of the dodecahedron.’
    • ‘This he obtained by circumscribing and inscribing a circle with regular polygons having 96 sides.’


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