Great Circle

Pronunciation: /greɪt ˈsɜr kəl/ ?

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 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. (Accessed: 2010-02-08). circle.
  2. Bartol, William C. The Elements of Solid Geometry, pp 49-50. Leach, Shewell, & Sandborn, 1893. (Accessed: 2010-02-08).
  3. Andrew Pressley. Elementary Differential Geometry, corrected edition, pp 174-178,190-195. Springer, September 18, 2002.

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Great Circle. 2010-02-08. All Math Words Encyclopedia. Life is a Story Problem LLC.


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2010-02-08: Added "References" (McAdams, David.)
2008-12-17: Initial version (McAdams, David.)

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