Word Origin & History
early 13c., "conditions surrounding and accompanying an event," from L. circumstantia "surrounding condition," neut. pl. of circumstans (gen. circumstantis), prp. of circumstare "stand around," from circum "around" + stare "to stand" from PIE base *sta- "to stand" (see
). Meaning "a person's surroundings, environment" is from mid-14c. Obsolete sense of "formality about an important event" (late 14c.) lingers in Shakespeare's phrase pomp and circumstance ("Othello" III, iii).
"condition of life, material welfare" (usually with a qualifying adj.), 1704, from circumstance