Words related to circle

circus (n.)

late 14c., in reference to the large, oblong, unroofed enclosures used for races, etc., in ancient Rome, from Latin circus "ring, circular line," which was applied by Romans to circular arenas for performances and contests and oval courses for racing (especially the Circus Maximus), from or cognate with Greek kirkos "a circle, a ring," perhaps from PIE *kikro-, reduplicated form of root *sker- (2) "to turn, bend." The adjective form is circensian.

In reference to modern large arenas for performances of feats of horsemanship, acrobatics, etc., from 1791, sense then extended to the performing company itself and the entertainment given, hence "traveling show" (originally traveling circus, 1838). Extended in World War I to squadrons of military aircraft. Meaning "lively uproar, chaotic hubbub" is from 1869.

Sense in Picadilly Circus and other place names is from early 18c. sense "buildings arranged in a ring," also "circular road."


third letter of the alphabet. Alphabetic writing came to Rome via the southern Etruscan "Caeretan" script, in which gamma was written as a crescent. Early Romans made little use of Greek kappa and used gamma for both the "g" and "k" sounds, the latter more frequently, so that the "k" sound came to be seen as the proper one for gamma. Classical Latin -c-, with only the value "k," passed to Celtic and, via missionary Irish monks, to the Anglo-Saxons. Also see cee.

In some Old English words, before some vowels and in certain positions, -c- had a "ts" sound that was respelled ch- in Middle English by French scribes (chest, cheese, church; see ch). In Old English -k- was known but little used.

Meanwhile, in Old French, many "k" sounds drifted to "ts" and by 13c., "s," but still were written -c-. Thus the 1066 invasion brought to the English language a flood of French and Latin words in which -c- represented "s" (as in cease, ceiling, circle) and a more vigorous use of -k- to distinguish that sound. By 15c. even native English words with -s- were being respelled with -c- for "s" (ice, mice, lice).

In some English words from Italian, the -c- has a "ch" sound (via a sound evolution somewhat like the Old French one). In German, -c- in loanwords was regularized to -k- or -z- (depending on pronunciation) in the international spelling reform of 1901, which was based on the Duden guide of 1880.

As a symbol in the Roman numeral system, "one hundred;" the symbol originally was a Greek theta, but was later reduced in form and understood to stand for centum. In music, it is the name of the keynote of the natural scale, though the exact pitch varied in time and place 18c. and 19c. from 240 vibrations per second to 275; it wasn't entirely regularized (at 261.63) until the adoption of the A440 standard in the 1930s. C-spring as a type of carriage spring is from 1794, so called for its shape.

circlet (n.)

"a small circle," late 15c., from French cerclet, diminutive of cercle (see circle (n.)).

circle-wise (adj.)

also circlewise, "in a circle," 1540s, from circle (n.) + wise (adj.).

circular (adj.)

late 14c., "round, having the form of a circle," from Anglo-French circuler, Old French circuler "circular" (14c., Modern French circulaire), from Latin circularis, from circulus "small ring" (see circle (n.)). Meaning "intended for circulation" is from 1650s. The metaphoric circular firing squad is attested by 1990.

circulate (v.)

1540s as a chemical term in reference to alternating vaporization and condensation, from Latin circulatus, past participle of circulare "to form a circle," from circulus "small ring" (see circle (n.)).

Intransitive sense of "to pass about freely, pass from place to place or person to person" is from 1660s; of newspapers from 1885. Of blood, "to flow in a continuous circuit," from 1650s; of persons, "to mingle in a social gathering," from 1863. Related: Circulated; circulating.

circulation (n.)

mid-15c., circulacioun, in alchemy, "process of changing something from one element into another," from Latin circulationem (nominative circulatio), noun of action from past-participle stem of circulare "to form a circle," from circulus "small ring" (see circle (n.)).

Of blood, "act of moving so that it returns and begins again," first by William Harvey, 1620s. Meaning "act or state of being distributed" is from 1680s; that of "extent to which a thing circulates" (of periodical publications) is from 1847.

circulatory (adj.)

"moving through a circuit," c. 1600, of blood, from French circulatoire or directly from Latin circulatorius, from circulator, agent noun from circulare "form a circle," from circulus (see circle (n.)). Circulatory system is recorded from 1862.

encircle (v.)

"form a circle round, enclose or surround circularly," c. 1400, from en- (1) "make, put in" + circle (n.). Related: Encircled; encircling.

full-circle (adv.)
1873, from full (adj.) + circle (n.).