Definition of circle in US English:


(also circ., cir.)


  • 1A round plane figure whose boundary (the circumference) consists of points equidistant from a fixed point (the center).

    • ‘We can picture all these dualities as points on the circumference of a circle.’
    • ‘In the normal geometry of flat space, the diameter of a circle is its circumference divided by pi.’
    • ‘A fringe of short parallel lines ran around the edge, and then a pair of concentric circles nearer the centre.’
    • ‘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. 1.1 Something in the shape of a circle.
      ‘the lamp spread a circle of light’
      ‘they all sat around in a circle’
      • ‘The light forms a massive circle, within which one can see the sad buildings that are being demolished.’
      • ‘I don't know how they get white meat packed into the neat circles or oval shapes that they make chicken sandwich out of.’
      • ‘The story is largely seen in flickering circles of light and specific scenes are tinted using intense bubblegum pink and steely blue.’
      • ‘We lit them and sat around our burning circle of light singing.’
      • ‘We're sitting in his spacious living room, which is furnished with two couches and a dozen plastic green chairs arranged in a circle.’
      • ‘When the petals fall a large circle of beautifully shaped brown seeds are left arrayed in spirograph formation.’
      • ‘When he walked into the ballroom Leon saw a circle of candles arranged loosely around her.’
      • ‘If you haven't immediately fallen asleep, you may see a circle of light.’
      • ‘Gemstones came into use and were usually cut in circles or rectangular shapes.’
      • ‘Place one or several under a table lamp within the circle of brightest light; the colors will glow.’
      • ‘Her pinkish red hair was braided and arranged neatly in a circle on her head.’
      • ‘The beam of light aimed at the circle was in the shape of a circle.’
      • ‘Tight circles of light begin to appear, sporadically.’
      • ‘He gestured to the couch and easy chairs arranged in a circle in the lobby.’
      • ‘I can see him there still, in the circle of light thrown by the lamp, leaning his head on his hand.’
      • ‘My oven mitts bear characteristic blackened circles in the exact shape of my stovetop burners.’
      • ‘The circle of light tracked beautifully across the empty gallery space.’
      • ‘Arrange in circles of overlapping slices on four plates.’
      ring, round, band, hoop, circlet
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 A dark circular mark below each eye caused by illness or tiredness.
      • ‘He looked at her closely, taking in the dark circles under her bloodshot eyes.’
      • ‘Her eyes were weary and bloodshot with deep dark circles under them.’
      • ‘If you ran into me on a street corner I'd be scowling and glassy-eyed with dark circles.’
      • ‘My blue eyes were bloodshot and dark black circles surrounded them; signs of a lack of sleep the night before.’
      • ‘I see dark circles under my bloodshot blue eyes and wrinkles from at least four years of undue stress.’
      • ‘Below his eyes were dark circles, outlining his tired eyes.’
      • ‘Real make-up suddenly looked like the preserve of those who had something to hide: crow's feet, dark circles and uneven skin tone.’
      • ‘She had the most dreadful dark circles under her eyes.’
      • ‘He stretched out on his couch, dark circles under his smoky blue eyes.’
      • ‘His spiky blond hair was matted and there were deep dark circles underneath his eyes.’
      • ‘His hair was wild, and dark circles hung below his eyes.’
      • ‘Hey, what happened to those ugly dark circles around your eyes?’
      • ‘Foundations provide the coverage you need to disguise dark spots and undereye circles.’
      • ‘Closer inspection reveals not only the wrinkles around his squinted eyes, but also a suggestion of dark circles under them.’
      • ‘Use a concealer to minimize any dark circles under the eyes or blemishes.’
      • ‘If I could wear kohl eyeliner I would never need worry about having dark circles under my eyes.’
      • ‘There's no harm in asking Santa to give me my hair back, rid me of dark circles, and transform me into Brad Pitt.’
      • ‘She looked thinner, the telltale sign of a recent illness evident in the dark circles under her eyes.’
      • ‘He looked terrible; underfed and beaten, with deep dark circles under his eyes.’
      • ‘Dark circles were etched into the skin below his eyes.’
    3. 1.3British A curved upper tier of seats in a theater.
      See also dress circle
      • ‘Even from my seat in the circle, Aida's blue eye-shadow looked excessive.’
      • ‘It was even better the third time, possibly because we had really good seats in the circle.’
      • ‘The blueprint sees an auditorium retained, with seating in the circle on the first floor which could be used to watch theatre.’
      • ‘He had the strange sensation that he stood in the rear circle of a theatre.’
      • ‘‘When I went to see her dance, I always booked seats in the royal circle,’ he recalls.’
      • ‘There were so many choir wannabes that they filled the choir platform, the stalls and the circle seats.’
      • ‘I was so small I'd have to perch on the edge of my seat in the circle and peer over the balcony railing to see the players.’
      • ‘A quick glance at my ticket reminded me that I had a seat in the circle and that I wouldn't be having to stand up for this gig.’
      balcony, upper circle
      View synonyms
  • 2A group of people with shared professions, interests, or acquaintances.

    ‘she did not normally move in such exalted circles’
    • ‘I prefer a few close friends to a wide circle of acquaintances.’
    • ‘He was highly regarded in Bolton's amateur dramatic circles, regularly taking lead roles in Bolton Little Theatre productions.’
    • ‘Not all women benefitted from the situation, but only those within the circle of the upper classes.’
    • ‘Word of her culinary prowess spread in media circles, and invitations came in to contribute to cookbooks and women's magazines.’
    • ‘His court became the centre for a dazzling circle of poets.’
    • ‘You become aware that you're part of a movement or circle in any sort of artistic endeavor.’
    • ‘Both plays were very well received and she enjoyed some celebrity in theatrical circles.’
    • ‘His years in Britain as a cricketer had been his passport to upper-class circles.’
    • ‘The Irish wave of discontent in banking circles has spread across the EU.’
    • ‘It is not easy to break into the cinema circle if you have no background of movies.’
    • ‘He had a wide circle of friends in the book trade in Ireland, the UK and the United States.’
    • ‘In showbusiness circles his sexuality was an open secret.’
    • ‘Pornography was seen in fashionable circles as a radical movement.’
    • ‘However, a circle of women disciples followed Jesus up to the end of his life.’
    • ‘Little by little he forges around himself a circle of acquaintances and friends.’
    • ‘And at weekends they spend their hard-earned cash in pubs and clubs with a wide circle of interesting, cosmopolitan friends.’
    • ‘In other circles, theatre is a dead artform.’
    • ‘The director is a big name in theatre circles and the actors are all well-known faces in Bangalore.’
    • ‘His name, however, comes up all the time in hockey circles.’
    • ‘But beyond tight-knit dance circles, the movement's original importance has been largely forgotten.’
    group, set, ring, company, body, coterie, clique
    sphere, world, milieu, arena, domain
    View synonyms


[with object]
  • 1Move all the way around (someone or something), especially more than once.

    no object ‘we circled around the island’
    ‘the two dogs circle each other with hackles raised’
    • ‘Round and around they circled each other, lunging, stepping back, attacking and then defending.’
    • ‘Australia's media barons are circling each other like sharks in a very small aquarium.’
    • ‘This means all the cars have to get back in a close line and circle for four or five laps.’
    • ‘They circle each other with acrobatic moves.’
    • ‘As the crocodile circled, he retreated to find his dog, which suffered several long cuts to its leg.’
    • ‘Soon we were circling each other warily, but I had fought him before, and I remembered his weaknesses.’
    • ‘After circling the area once, we headed toward my car.’
    • ‘She circled the rink once and then began to slap the puck around.’
    • ‘Once outside the girls circled the hut and collected their weapons.’
    • ‘Once again, the wolves are circling a large mammal.’
    • ‘We circled the block once to see who was leaving the club.’
    • ‘Turning to a working radar, we immediately spotted little white dots circling nearby Alcatraz Island.’
    • ‘She pointed to two cats that were circling each other, starting to hiss.’
    • ‘They circled each other like two mad dogs, neither making a move.’
    • ‘The car circled the park once then rolled down Dong Khoi Street.’
    • ‘The combatants were circling each other warily, and waiting for the next move.’
    • ‘Rather than smile and wink flirtatiously, they instead stare at each other curiously, like two predators circling each other in the wild.’
    • ‘Two dogs were circling each other in the enclosed space.’
    • ‘Ever since, we have circled each other amiably, two playwrights on similar trajectories.’
    • ‘In the time it has taken you to read this story, those two stars may have fully circled each other.’
    wheel, move round, move round in circles, revolve, rotate, whirl, spiral, gyrate
    go round, walk round, travel round, circumnavigate
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1circle backno object Move in a wide loop back toward one's starting point.
      • ‘I'm off to look for a hotel room, and tomorrow morning I'll begin to circle back north.’
      • ‘I circled back and drove by again thinking maybe I'd missed it.’
      • ‘The hawk circled back to the island.’
      • ‘It dumped its fuel in the ocean, before circling back to the airport with 273 passengers and crew.’
      • ‘Ava's thinking is like a wheel spinning, circling back on itself.’
      • ‘Eventually she flew off, but not before circling back and dropping a single feather at his feet.’
      • ‘We circle back down to our boat, passing through crowded Turkish cemeteries.’
      • ‘We tried to get them away from their weapons but they kept circling back to them.’
      • ‘He and I go right, then circle back toward her slowly.’
      • ‘Her horse slowed to a trot as she circled back to the starting line.’
      • ‘We circled back towards J Street, passing the St. Francis of Assisi church.’
      • ‘So they circled back to the park, by which time, the police were already on the scene.’
      • ‘On our fourth day out, we circled back inland.’
      • ‘The dog first heads away from the road, then quickly circles back toward the family.’
      • ‘Sue, my wife, is taking a long run on the beach and then circling back to buy fresh shrimp for supper.’
      • ‘Let's see if we can circle back to where we started.’
      • ‘The film moves rapidly and without signposts from Cape Breton to England, Scotland and Ireland, eventually circling back to where it started.’
      • ‘The offspring of the Manhattan Project are circling back toward Manhattan.’
      • ‘So am I just circling back to the beginning in my journey?’
      • ‘She keeps circling back to a few events, a few places, all from childhood.’
    2. 1.2 Form a ring around.
      ‘the monastery was circled by a huge wall’
      • ‘It is a perfect spring day as they stroll along the path circling the artificial lake.’
      • ‘Decomposed granite paths circle the fountain, and a sandstone path leads to the front door.’
      • ‘The steel fence circling the ‘promised land’ looked rather imposing.’
      • ‘It would take eight people holding hands to circle the base of the trunk.’
      • ‘It was a mountain, and there was a path that circled it.’
      • ‘Seen from space, an aurora appears as a ring of energy circling a planet's polar region.’
      • ‘For a glimpse of the not-so-distant past, you have only to cross one of the huge, bleak avenues that circles the Old Town.’
      • ‘The Gare de Lyon is one of the ring of train stations that circle Paris.’
      • ‘Their house will be circled, surrounded.’
      • ‘Houses cry out for a coat of paint and are circled by half-broken fences.’
      • ‘Lush grass surrounded the edge of the pit, which was circled by a white picket fence.’
      • ‘Circled by soft white sand, the islands are getting known for their beaches.’
      surround, encircle, ring, ring round, enclose, encompass, bound
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3 Draw a line around.
      ‘circle the correct answers’
      • ‘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’
      • ‘I will always be a person who circles the date on my calendar and anticipates its arrival.’
      • ‘She went through the ads with her pen, circling some and putting a single line alongside others.’
      • ‘A list of places to avoid and areas where the pilots cannot go are ringed, circled and pinned into maps of the region.’


  • circle the drain

    • informal Experience a rapidly worsening situation apparently leading to failure or disaster.

      ‘what do you do when your business starts to circle the drain?’
  • circle the wagons

    • informal (of a group) unite in defense of a common interest.

      • ‘They want to circle the wagons and say there's no problem.’
      • ‘The press office responded to criticism by circling the wagons and freezing out reporters.’
      • ‘The Cuban people continue to circle the wagons around him in response to efforts to bring down his government.’
      • ‘Conservatives circled the wagons around him after his comments about homosexuality.’
      • ‘The public health people have been circling the wagons to cover up the facts!’
      • ‘As we expected, you are trying to circle the wagons to protect your hold on power.’
      • ‘We all went through some tough times together, but we really circled the wagons.’
      • ‘We seem to be circling the wagons for self-protection.’
      • ‘The establishment's response has been to circle the wagons.’
      • ‘All professional organizations are known to circle the wagons at the first signs of trouble.’
  • come (or turn) full circle

    • Return to a past position or situation, especially in a way considered to be inevitable.

      • ‘Mrs Glendinning has come full circle by returning to the school she attended as a pupil.’
      • ‘I ran a piece in the magazine looking at coffee houses coming full circle back to their 18th century roots as business places.’
      • ‘Things seem to be turning full circle and I'm not sure I want to live through some of those past episodes again.’
      • ‘In some ways modern societies are turning full circle and returning to the varied rituals of the past.’
      • ‘Our author's life has now come full circle with his return some years ago to his native Hampshire.’
      • ‘He has essentially come full circle, returning to the place where it all began some 17 years ago.’
      • ‘The exhibition comes full circle here, returning to the idea with which it begins.’
      • ‘From his arrival in Perth to his inevitable departure, our conversation has come full circle.’
      • ‘Her career came full circle with a return to cycling.’
      • ‘Warehouse conversions are now coming full circle and being turned back into warehouses again.’
  • 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’
      • ‘We spent two hours arguing and going round in circles.’
      • ‘The inquiry went round in circles and I was no wiser.’
      • ‘I feel as though I'm watching someone go round in circles, caught up in a cycle of pain.’
      • ‘We could go round in circles apportioning the blame, but the bottom line is that we've failed to meet expectations.’
      • ‘And I think we went round in circles for a year, because neither of us was brave enough to admit that we didn't like the project.’
      • ‘No-one seems to be taking responsibility for this and we're just going round in circles.’
      • ‘I want us to be in a position to make some decisions instead of seeing the issue go round in circles.’
      • ‘I feel like I've been stagnating all day, going round in circles with this case!’
      • ‘Our meeting was starting to go round in circles.’
      • ‘I know what I want but there is a genuine lack of cash, and this is why we are going round in circles.’
  • run around in circles

    • informal Be fussily busy with little result.

      • ‘You're just tiring yourself out, draining emotional energy, while making no progress running around in circles.’
      • ‘It seems like the show just runs around in circles constantly, and the characters are stagnant.’
      • ‘And officials in this country, as elsewhere in the region, are running round in circles.’
      • ‘You two are never going to get anywhere if you keep running around in circles like this.’
      • ‘We're running around in circles and wasting our time.’
      • ‘For the moment the government is running around in circles.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Pundits, columnists and community spokesmen are running around in circles as they theorise, condemn and then proceed to pat each other on the back.’
      • ‘Industrious, we run around in circles, squeaking.’
  • the wheel has turned (or come) full circle

    • The situation has returned to what it was in the past, as if completing a cycle.

      • ‘But, as happens so often in history, the wheel has turned full circle.’
      • ‘The wheel comes full circle and he is back where his own history began.’
      • ‘Forty years ago it all seemed most unlikely, but today the wheel has turned full circle.’
      • ‘Now the wheel has come full circle, and those who smuggled food into the camp are also honoured in the exhibition hall.’
      • ‘The wheel of fashion turned full circle, with designers convincing audiences to swoon over collections they would have balked at last year.’
      • ‘But the wheel has turned full circle, and the actor is once again a big deal.’
      • ‘Now the wheel has turned full circle and films set in Scotland are more likely to embrace urban realism.’


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