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great circle

a circle on a spherical surface such that the plane containing the circle passes through the center of the sphere.
Compare small circle.
a circle of which a segment represents the shortest distance between two points on the surface of the earth.
Origin of great circle
1585-95 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for great-circle

great circle

a circular section of a sphere that has a radius equal to that of the sphere Compare small circle
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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great-circle in Science
great circle  
A circle on the surface of a sphere whose plane passes through the center of the sphere. The Earth's equator is a great circle on the sphere of the globe.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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