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From Latin circumstantia + English -al, equivalent to circumstance +‎ -ial.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /səːkəmˈstanʃəl/
    • (file)


circumstantial (comparative more circumstantial, superlative most circumstantial)

  1. Pertaining to or dependent on circumstances, especially as opposed to essentials; incidental, not essential.
    • 1754, John Sharp, Sermons:
      We must therefore distinguish between the essentials in religious worship [] and what is merely circumstantial.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:circumstantial
  2. Abounding with minor circumstances; in great detail; particular.
    • 1777, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, The School for Scandal, V.ii:
      My Unkle's account is more circumstantial I must confess—but I believe mine is the true one for all that.
    • 1806, James Wilkinson, Letter to Thomas Jefferson (October 21, 1806) (part of Burr conspiracy)
      For although my information appears too direct and circumstantial to be fictitious, yet the magnitude of the enterprise, the desperation of the plan, and the stupendous consequences with which it seems pregnant, stagger my belief []
    • 2007, John Burrow, A History of Histories, Penguin, published 2009, page 326:
      Second-hand but clearly from the best possible source - the King himself - [the story] is highly circumstantial, taking twenty-two pages of text.
  3. Full of circumstance or pomp; ceremonial.
  4. (law) Suggesting guilt, but not proving it conclusively.
    It is unlikely he will be convicted; the evidence against him is circumstantial at best.

Derived terms[edit]



circumstantial (plural circumstantials)

  1. (chiefly in the plural) Something incidental to the main subject, but of less importance.
    Antonym: essential
    the circumstantials of religion