Definitions

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

  • adj. Intended for general or wide circulation.
  • n. Roman Catholic Church A papal letter addressed to the bishops of the Church or to the hierarchy of a particular country.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A papal letter delivered to Bishops in the Roman Catholic Church.
  • adj. Intended for general circulation.

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

  • adj. intended for wide distribution
  • n. a letter from the pope sent to all Roman Catholic bishops throughout the world

Etymologies

From Medieval Lattin encyclicus, circular, from Greek enkuklios : en-, in; see en-2 + kuklos, circle; see kwel-1 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Late Latin encyclicus, from Ancient Greek εγκυκλιος (enkyklios, "circular, general"), from εν− (en-) + κύκλος (kyklos, "circle"). (Wiktionary)

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