“The father devised novel methods to circumscribe his twins’ movements – he never knew where they’d end up!”

As used in the sentence above, what is the best definition of circumscribe?

Check your answer!

Choice A - To draw circles on other objects
Choice B - To impose boundaries or limits on
Choice C - To placate or make calmer
Choice D - To discipline or enforce rules


Circumscribe (verb) – to enclose within bounds; to restrict or to set or impose limits  

Circumscription (noun) – the restriction of something within bounds or limits

Circumscribed (adjective) – having well-defined limits or bounds

GRE pro tips:

The verb circumscribe comes from the Latin words circum, meaning “around,” and scribere, meaning “to write”—its rough translation is “to draw a circle around.” You may be familiar with the term circumscribe from geometry, where it means to draw one geometric figure (like a circle) around another (say, a triangle), so that the two figures touch but don’t intersect. This precept helps you comprehend the way circumscribe is used in everyday English.

Like in geometry, to circumscribe means to enclose within bounds, or to limit, but it refers to the limitation of things like behaviors, roles, or actions. For example, parents routinely circumscribe their children’s behavior when they limit screen time or give them a curfew. But circumscription does not have to come from the outside—you can circumscribe yourself. For instance, by deciding to circumscribe your time, spending more of it with your friends and family and less of it online.

Example sentences:

“The amount of time permitted for museum visitors to view the masterpiece was strictly circumscribed.”

“He made himself circumscribe his enthusiasm because he didn’t want to make losing side feel even worse.”