from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A condition or fact attending an event and having some bearing on it; a determining or modifying factor.
  • n. A condition or fact that determines or must be considered in the determining of a course of action.
  • n. The sum of determining factors beyond willful control. Often used in the plural: a victim of circumstance; work that will begin on Monday if circumstances permit.
  • n. Financial status or means: "Prior came of a good family, much reduced in circumstances” ( George Sherburn).
  • n. Detail accompanying or surrounding an event, as in a narrative or series of events.
  • n. Formal display; ceremony: the pomp and circumstance of a coronation.
  • n. A particular incident or occurrence: Your arrival was a fortunate circumstance. See Synonyms at occurrence.
  • transitive v. To place in particular circumstances or conditions; situate.
  • idiom under no circumstances In no case; never.
  • idiom under Given these conditions; such being the case.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. That which attends, or relates to, or in some way affects, a fact or event; an attendant thing or state of things.
  • n. An event; a fact; a particular incident.
  • n. Circumlocution; detail.
  • n. Condition in regard to worldly estate; state of property; situation; surroundings.
  • v. To place in a particular situation, especially with regard to money or other resources.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. That which attends, or relates to, or in some way affects, a fact or event; an attendant thing or state of things.
  • n. An event; a fact; a particular incident.
  • n. Circumlocution; detail.
  • n. Condition in regard to worldly estate; state of property; situation; surroundings.
  • transitive v. To place in a particular situation; to supply relative incidents.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To place in a particular situation or condition with regard to attending facts or incidents: only in the past participle: as, he was so circumstanced that he could not accept.
  • To control or guide by circumstances: only in the following passage.
  • To furnish or dress out with incidents and details; add circumstances to.
  • n. A fact related to another fact and modifying or throwing light upon its meaning, significance, importance, etc., without affecting its essential nature; something attending, appendant, or relative; something incidental; an accidental or unessential accompaniment; especially, some fact which gives rise to a certain presumption or tends to afford evidence.
  • n. A particular or detail; a matter of small consequence: as, that is a mere circumstance compared to what followed.
  • n. Collectively, detail; minuteness; specification of particulars.
  • n. A ceremonious accompaniment; a formality required by law or custom; more specifically, in a concrete sense, adjuncts of pomp and ceremony; ceremonies; display.
  • n. The surroundings, rarely of a thing, generally of a person; existing condition or state of things; facts external to a person considered as helping or, more especially, as hindering his designs, or as inducing him to act in a certain way; predicament, unforeseen or unprovided for; a person's worldly estate, or condition of wealth or poverty; fortune; means: generally in the plural.
  • n. Event; occurrence; incident.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. information that should be kept in mind when making a decision
  • n. the set of facts or circumstances that surround a situation or event
  • n. a condition that accompanies or influences some event or activity
  • n. formal ceremony about important occasions


Middle English, from Old French circonstance, from Latin circumstantia, from circumstāns, circumstant-, present participle of circumstāre, to stand around : circum-, circum- + stāre, to stand; see stā- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)


  • The Enlightenment ideal appropriate to this circumstance is the "pursuit of happiness" which has limited the government's responsibility for my own happiness since 1776.

    Layard and Happiness, Arnold Kling | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty

  • Another circumstance is the "The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell, sometimes not shelved by bookstores or libraries in their SF sections; of course, the book is about first contact with aliens and travel to an alien planet, it might be Spec.

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  • And when so detected they betrayed no recognition of their masters, for no soldier can recognize his dog — so heinous a circumstance is attempted stowaway.

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  • The last tie, the last constraint that bound him to home and a steady, righteous life would be broken; he would go all adrift, be tossed hither and thither on every wave of circumstance -- what he called circumstance -- till Heaven only knew what a total wreck he might speedily become, or in what forlorn and far off seas his ruined life might go down.

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  • The usual course should anyone negotiate in this kind of circumstance is to conduct any correspondence/phone calls/etc “without prejudice”.

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  • Her heart is broken, but then a change in circumstance forces Naoki and Kotoko to be together every day …!?

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  • No iron-clad fundraising rules exist, because each circumstance is different, says Raman Chadha, executive director of the Coleman Entrepreneurship Center at DePaul University in Chicago.

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  • I realize that these memos were considered to be just the neo-con musings of people like Mr. Yoo and that every administration has drawn up contingency plans for every circumstance from the tragic -- such as nuclear attacks on Washington, D.C. -- to the farcical -- such as invading Canada.

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  • In fact, here are the first seven definitions of circumstance from the OED that are not considered obsolete:

    2010 March « Motivated Grammar

  • The much more usual circumstance is for people to live in multi-ethnic or multi-cultural countries.

    Matthew Yglesias » Israel Bans Arab Parties


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  • "Hello, circumstances. Let me introduce myself:
    you are me."
    "Oh -- Hi! Glad to meet you."

    --Jan Cox

    June 30, 2007