Correct use of “circa”

Circa is a term that means ‘approximately.’ The word comes from Latin and literally means ‘around’ or ‘about.’ It comes from the same Latin root word as the English word ‘circle.’

It is often used in reference to a time period when the exact date is not known. For instance, when looking at a family photo album, if you see a picture of you as a baby, and you know you were born in 1978, but you aren’t sure of the exact date the picture was taken, you might say, “This is a picture of me, circa 1978.” Another way of using the term in this case would be to say, “Me, circa late 1970’s.”

The term circa is often used in historical and genealogical writing. It is regularly found in history textbooks and biographies when referencing events of which the exact date is not known, but there is evidence to suggest a general time period for those events. For example, in a book about ancient Egypt, one might read, “King Tut was born circa 1341 BCE.”

Circa, as with many other English words that came from Latin, is used in everyday modern English too. It is a word that you might hear in casual conversation as well as in more formal settings. Some common synonyms for the word include: approximately, roughly, and around. A few casual, informal synonyms are the phrases: thereabouts and give or take.

The term can be abbreviated as any of the following: circ., c., or ca.


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