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[out-lahyn] /ˈaʊtˌlaɪn/
the line by which a figure or object is defined or bounded; contour.
a drawing or sketch restricted to line without shading or modeling of form.
a general sketch, account, or report, indicating only the main features, as of a book, subject, or project:
an outline of medieval history; an outline of a speech.
outlines, the essential features or main aspects of something under discussion:
At the first meeting, we gave her only the outlines of the project.
Printing. an ornamented type in which the outside contours of each character appear in black, with the inside left white.
verb (used with object), outlined, outlining.
to draw the outline of, or draw in outline, as a figure or object.
to give an outline of; sketch the main features of:
On the first day, the professor just outlined the course for us.
Origin of outline
1655-65; out- + line1
Related forms
preoutline, noun, verb (used with object), preoutlined, preoutlining.
reoutline, verb (used with object), reoutlined, reoutlining.
well-outlined, adjective
1. See form. 3. plan, draft, rough, synopsis, summary. 6, 7. delineate, draft. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for outline
  • Bring brief handouts that outline your plan for the hour.
  • We could use a single sensor to look at the three-dimensional outline of a target or object of interest.
  • The cloud would outline your skin, delineate your lungs, trace your digestive tract.
  • Then they have to turn in a bibliography and a detailed outline before a rough draft and a final version.
  • Considering they cannot even outline a plan for correcting the stumbling economy, it is doubtful they have any sort of plan.
  • Scheduled events such as these give an outline of the global agenda.
  • The senatorial trio reportedly shared an eight-page outline of their proposal with industrial leaders twice this week.
  • Despite these complexities, however, scientists do have a broad outline of early primate evolution.
  • Smooth your surface, remove weeds, and outline the edges.
  • If you find keeping to your outline difficult, it may work best for you to let the outline go.
British Dictionary definitions for outline


a preliminary or schematic plan, draft, account, etc
(usually pl) the important features of an argument, theory, work, etc
the line by which an object or figure is or appears to be bounded
  1. a drawing or manner of drawing consisting only of external lines
  2. (as modifier): an outline map
verb (transitive)
to draw or display the outline of
to give the main features or general idea of
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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Word Origin and History for outline

1660s, "lines by which a figure is delineated," from out + line (v.). Meaning "rough draft in words" is from 1759.


1790, "to draw in outline," from outline (n.). Meaning "to describe in general terms" is from 1855. Related: Outlined; outlining.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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