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Various circumscribed quadrilaterals: note the circles.


From Latin circumscrībō, from circum (around) + scrībō (write). By surface analysis, circum- +‎ scribe.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈsɜː.kəm.skɹaɪb/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈsɝ.kəm.skɹaɪb/
  • (file)
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -aɪb


circumscribe (third-person singular simple present circumscribes, present participle circumscribing, simple past and past participle circumscribed)

  1. To draw a line around; to encircle.
  2. To limit narrowly; to restrict.
    • 1837, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], “Asking for an Invitation”, in Ethel Churchill: Or, The Two Brides. [], volume III, London: Henry Colburn, [], →OCLC, page 29:
      "Well, I promise you to circumscribe her conquests as much as possible by extending my own," returned Henrietta. "It will be an easy task; for Miss Churchill does not do 'the honours of her eyes.' I often tell her her beauty is quite wasted upon her."
    • 2013 June 7, David Simpson, “Fantasy of navigation”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 188, number 26, page 36:
      It is tempting to speculate about the incentives or compulsions that might explain why anyone would take to the skies in [the] basket [of a balloon]: […]; perhaps to moralise on the oneness or fragility of the planet, or to see humanity for the small and circumscribed thing that it is; […].
  3. (geometry) To draw the smallest circle or higher-dimensional sphere that has (a polyhedron, polygon, etc.) in its interior.

Related terms[edit]





  1. second-person singular present active imperative of circumscrībō