Great Circle

Pronunciation: /greɪt ˈsɜr kəl/ Explain

A sphere with a great circle and 2 small circles marked.
Figure 1: Great circle.

A great circle is a circle on the surface of a sphere that divides the sphere into two equal halves.[1] A great circle contains the diameter of the sphere. The great circle has the least curvature of any circle on the sphere. A great circle passing through two points contains the shortest distance between those two points on the surface of a sphere. A circle that is not a great circle is called a small circle.


  1. great circle. Encyclopedia Britannica. Merriam-Webster. Last Accessed 8/6/2018. circle.
  2. Bartol, William C. The Elements of Solid Geometry. pp 49-50. Leach, Shewell, & Sandborn. 1893. Last Accessed 8/6/2018. Buy the book
  3. Andrew Pressley. Elementary Differential Geometry. corrected edition. pp 174-178,190-195. Springer. September 18, 2002. Buy the book

Cite this article as:

McAdams, David E. Great Circle. 7/11/2018. All Math Words Encyclopedia. Life is a Story Problem LLC.

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Revision History

7/10/2018: Removed broken links, updated license, implemented new markup, implemented new Geogebra protocol. (McAdams, David E.)
2/8/2010: Added "References". (McAdams, David E.)
12/17/2008: Initial version. (McAdams, David E.)

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