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cirque

[surk] /sɜrk/
noun
1.
circle; ring.
2.
a bowl-shaped, steep-walled mountain basin carved by glaciation, often containing a small, round lake.
Origin
1595-1605
1595-1605; < French < Latin circus; see circus
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for cirques

cirque

/sɜːk/
noun
1.
Also called corrie, cwm. a semicircular or crescent-shaped basin with steep sides and a gently sloping floor formed in mountainous regions by the erosive action of a glacier
2.
(archaeol) an obsolete term for circle (sense 11)
3.
(poetic) a circle, circlet, or ring
Word Origin
C17: from French, from Latin circus ring, circle, circus
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for cirques

cirque

n.

c.1600, "a circus," from French cirque (14c.), from Latin circus (see circus). Cf. Italian and Spanish circo.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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cirques in Science
cirque
  (sûrk)   
A steep, amphitheatre-shaped hollow occurring at the upper end of a mountain valley, especially one forming the head of a glacier or stream. Cirques are formed by the erosive activity of glaciers and often contain a small lake.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Encyclopedia Article for cirques

cirque

(French: "circle"), amphitheatre-shaped basin with precipitous walls, at the head of a glacial valley. It generally results from erosion beneath the bergschrund of a glacier. A bergschrund is a large crevasse that lies a short distance from the exposed rock walls and separates the stationary from the moving ice; in early summer it opens, exposing the rock at its base to diurnal changes of temperature. Frost action then causes rapid disintegration of lower rock, which causes the upper rock to avalanche and produce an almost vertical head wall. Resulting rock material is embedded in the glacier and scours a concave floor, which may contain a small lake (tarn) if the glacier disappears. Expansion of neighbouring cirques produces sharp aretes, cols, and horns. Because glaciers must originate above the snowline, a survey of the elevations of ancient cirques provides information on climatic change and on the former position of the snow line.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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