Prefix: circum

July 28th, 2022 in Grammar by April Michelle Davis 0

Despite the fact that circumvent and circumnavigate both start with the Latin prefix “circum-” meaning “around,” these two verbs mean to go around in different ways.

Circumvent means to go around something so as to avoid it, such as a physical obstacle or an issue.

For example: Being financially insured can help you circumvent financial disaster.

Circumnavigate means to fly or sail around something. There is an implication of adventure and a journey completed.

For example: Last year, she single-handedly circumnavigated Australia.

It might be comforting to know that even national newspapers have been known to confuse these two terms. Take, for example, USA TODAY’s article entitled, “World’s ‘largest solar-powered boat’ to circumvent globe.” Here, the word circumnavigate should have been used. As it is, the use of circumvent implies that the sailors mean to somehow avoid the globe, rather than to sail around it.

Tip: To help you avoid making this mistake, try using avoid or bypass instead. If either of these words can be inserted without changing the meaning of the sentence, then you will want to use circumvent.

To learn more about English grammar, please take April Michelle Davis’s Grammar 101, a comprehensive course covering parts of speech, clauses, phrases, parallel structure, comparisons, double negatives, modifiers, punctuation, and spelling.