The Circle

The Circle Glossary

Calatrava Fountain

Santiago Calatrava Valls is a Spanish neofuturistic architect, structural engineer, sculptor, and painter.


A simple type of cracker eaten on sea voyages, on military campaigns, and by gold prospectors migrating to California in the early 1850s.

Calder Mobile

Alexander Calder was an American sculptor known as the originator of the mobile, a type of kinetic sculpture made with delicately balanced or suspended components which move in response to motor power or air currents.


Koyaanisqatsi, also known as Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance, is a 1982 American documentary film directed by Godfrey Reggio with music composed by Philip Glass and cinematography by Ron Fricke. The film consists primarily of slow motion and time-lapse footage of cities and many natural landscapes across the United States. The visual poem contains neither dialogue nor a vocalized narration: its tone is set by the juxtaposition of images and music.


Vertigo is a subtype of dizziness in which a patient inappropriately experiences the perception of motion (usually a spinning motion) due to dysfunction of the vestibular system.

Black Lightning

Black Lightning is a fictional superhero appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics starting in 1977. The character was one of the first major African American superheroes to appear in DC Comics.


A protégé is a person who is guided and supported by an older and more experienced or influential person (protégée is the female form).


A subsidy is a form of financial aid or support extended to an economic sector (or institution, business, or individual).


Ochre is a natural earth pigment which ranges in color from yellow to deep orange or brown.


Asperger syndrome (AS), also known as Asperger's syndrome, Asperger disorder (AD), or simply Asperger's, is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development. The term has recently gone out of use due to Autism's redefinition as a spectrum with individuals defined as higher or lower functioning.


Initial public offering (IPO) or stock market launch is a type of public offering in which shares of stock in a company usually are sold to institutional investors that in turn sell to the general public, on a securities exchange, for the first time. Through this process, a private company transforms into a public company. The IPO process is colloquially known as going public. The largest ever IPO was The Alibaba Group with $25 billion in 2014; one of the highest ever was Facebook with $16 billion in 2012.


TruYou is invented by the Circle's Ty Gospodinov and creates a single online identity for a person - "Ty had devised the initial system, the Unified Operating System, which combined everything online that had heretofore been separate and sloppy - users' social media profiles, their payment systems, their various passwords, their email accounts, usernames, preferences, every last tool and manifestation of their interests... Your devices knew who you were, and your one identity - the TruYou, unbendable and unmaskable - was the person paying signing up, responding, viewing and reviewing, seeing and being seen" (21).


In Norse mythology, Valhalla (from Old Norse Valhöll "hall of the slain") is a majestic, enormous hall located in Asgard, ruled over by the god Odin.

FCC Investigation

The FCC, Federal Communications Commission, is an independent US government regulatory agency responsible for overseeing all interstate and international communications. The FCC works in the areas of broadband, competition, the spectrum, the media, public safety, and homeland security.

Spruce Goose and Enola Gay

The Hughes H-4 Hercules (also known as the "Spruce Goose") is a prototype heavy strategic airlift military transport aircraft designed and built by the Hughes Aircraft Company in 1947.

The Enola Gay is a Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber built in 1945.


Riesling is a white wine produced from the Riesling grape variety which originated in the Rhine region of Germany.

Tatum O'Neal and Paper Moon

Tatum O'Neal is an American actress and author. She is the youngest person ever to win a competitive Academy Award. She won in 1974 at the age of 10 for her performance as Addie Loggins in Paper Moon opposite her father, Ryan O'Neal. Paper Moon is a 1973 American comedy-drama shot in black and white and set in Kansas and Missouri during the Great Depression.


Mossad is the Israeli force responsible for intelligence collection, covert operations, and counterterrorism; for bringing Jews to Israel from countries where official Aliyah agencies are forbidden; and for protecting Jewish communities.


A term used in the novel to connote something like a Facebook status - one can send out a zing to their followers or to all Circle employees, and these will show up in others' zing feeds.

Tahrir Square and the Egyptian Revolution

The Egyptian Revolution began on January 25, 2011 and was part of the Arab Spring. It consisted of demonstrations, marches, occupations of plazas, riots, non-violent civil resistance, acts of civil disobedience, and strikes.

Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square is a large city square in the centre of Beijing, China, named after the Tiananmen gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace) located to its North, separating it from the Forbidden City. Outside China, the square is best known in recent memory as the focal point of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, a pro-democracy movement which ended on June 4, 1989 with the declaration of martial law in Beijing by the government and the shooting of several hundred, or possibly thousands, of civilians by soldiers.

The Hague

The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 are a series of international treaties and declarations negotiated at two international peace conferences at The Hague in the Netherlands. The First Hague Conference was held in 1899 and the Second Hague Conference in 1907. Along with the Geneva Conventions, the Hague Conventions were among the first formal statements of the laws of war and war crimes in the body of secular international law.

Second Enlightenment

The Enlightenment is the period in the history of Western thought and culture, stretching roughly from the middle of the seventeenth century through the eighteenth century, characterized by dramatic revolutions in science, philosophy, society, and politics. These revolutions swept away the medieval worldview and ushered in our modern Western world. Eamon Bailey tells employees of the Circle that they are at the dawn of the "Second Enlightenment" to insinuate that vast societal and intellectual upheaval is about to occur.


A technology comprised of small cameras that one is able to put up in any location for private viewing or sharing with the public. Eamon Bailey first demonstrates their effectiveness in accessing natural conditions and keeping watch from afar of revolution and police violence. A group called "ChangeSeers" later spread over the planet, installing cameras everywhere, especially in remote areas.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Multiple sclerosis (often abbreviated to MS) is a disease in which the immune system eats away at the protective covering of nerves. The cause of MS is still unknown – scientists believe the disease is triggered by as-yet-unidentified environmental factor(s) in a person who is genetically predisposed to respond. Vision loss, pain, fatigue, and impaired coordination are symptoms, but physical therapy and medications that suppress the immune system can help with symptoms and slow disease progression.


ChildTrack, later called TruYouth, is the technology Francis is developing which would plant tracking chips in the bones of children so that they can be located by their parents and/or the police.


MaeDay is the username that Renata gives Mae on her first day of work - "'I made up a name for you: MaeDay. Like the war holiday. Isn't that cool?' Mae wasn't so sure about the name, and couldn't remember a holiday by that name."

Mayday has three major uses - Mayday is a distress signal, May Day often refers to a spring festival held on May 1st, and, also on May 1st, May Day can refer to International Workers' Day which celebrates laborers and the working class.

InnerCircle and OuterCircle

In the novel, the InnerCircle and OuterCircle are parts of a Circle employee's zing feed. The InnerCircle is comprised of other Circle employees and the OuterCircle is comprised of all others with TruYou accounts.

Participation Rank/PartiRank

This term is used in the novel as a way to track one's online social involvement at the Circle. Mae is at first chastised for her PartiRank being too low, but soon she has worked her way into the prized T2K or top 2,000 users. As Gina, a Circle employee, explains it to Mae, "It's just an algorithm-generated number that takes into account all your activity in the InnerCircle... it takes into account zings, exterior followers of your intra-company zings, comments on your zings, your comments on others' zings, your comments on other Circler's profiles, your photos posted, attendance at Circle events, comments and photos posted about those events - basically it collects and celebrates all you do here. The most active Circlers are ranked highest of course" (101).


Lisbon is the capital city of Portugal.

The Y

YMCA or The Young Men's Christian Association is a welfare movement that began in London in 1844 and now has branches all over the world. Many people from the United States use it for its cheap classes in subjects from exercise to cooking.


A retinue is a group of advisers, assistants, or others accompanying an important person. Eggers uses it in an unconventional way to more simply mean group.

pH Level

pH level is a measure of acidity or alkalinity of water soluble substances. A pH value is a number from 1 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline), with 7 as the middle (neutral) point.

Hep C

Hepatitis C is an infectious disease affecting primarily the liver, caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The infection is often asymptomatic, but chronic infection can lead to scarring of the liver and ultimately to cirrhosis, which is generally apparent after many years. HCV is spread primarily by blood-to-blood contact associated with intravenous drug use, poorly sterilized medical equipment, and transfusions. An estimated 150–200 million people worldwide are infected with hepatitis C.


LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices.


Scientifically, transparency refers to something that allows light to pass through so that objects behind can be distinctly seen, but in business, governmental, and social contexts it has come to mean operating in such a way that it is easy for others to see what actions are performed. The Circle takes this to another level by using transparency to mean streaming video and audio of almost all of one's daily life (for government officials this is later called "Clarification").

Donald Judd Sculpture

Donald Judd was an American artist associated with minimalism.

Conversion Rate and Retail Raw

These are two terms Eggers creates to track one's influence on others' consumer behavior. As Gina explains, "How to simulate purchases - that's the conversion rate. You can zing, you could comment on and rate and highlight any produce, but can you translate this all into action? Leveraging your credibility to spur action - this is crucial, okay?... If your purchase or recommendation spurs fifty others to take the same action, then your CR is x50... Below the Conversion Rate is your Retail Raw, the total gross purchase price of recommended products. So let's say you recommend a certain keychain, and 1,000 people take your recommendation; then those 1,000 keychains, priced at $4 each, bring your Retail Raw to $4,000."


Colloquially, circle jerk refers to "When a bunch of blowhards - usually politicians - get together for a debate but usually end up agreeing with each other's viewpoints to the point of redundancy, stroking each other's egos as if they were extensions of their genitals (ergo, the mastubatory insinuation). Basically, it's what happens when the choir preaches to itself"( Mercer uses the term here to pun on the company's name and their propensity to be insular.

Julian Assange

Julian Paul Assange is an Australian publisher and journalist. He is known as the editor-in-chief of the website WikiLeaks, which he co-founded in 2006 after an earlier career in hacking and programming. WikiLeaks achieved particular prominence in 2010 when it published U.S. military and diplomatic documents. Assange has been under investigation in the United States since that time.

Pentagon Papers

The Pentagon Papers was the name given to a secret Department of Defense study of US political and military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967.


Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi was a Libyan revolutionary and politician who governed Libya as its primary leader from 1969 to 2011. Gaddafi was a controversial and highly divisive world figure. Supporters lauded his anti-imperialist stance and his support for Pan-Africanism and Pan-Arabism, and he was decorated with various awards. Conversely, he was internationally condemned as a dictator and autocrat whose authoritarian administration violated the human rights of Libyan citizens, and supported irredentist movements, tribal warfare, and terrorism in many other nations.


Circle employees who live on campus in the fully-stocked HomeTown dorms.


Sardonic means grimly mocking or cynical.


PastPerfect is a Circle-created technology that allows one to search back for all photos and information recorded at any point on one's ancestors. This information is, of course, public, and when Annie volunteers to be the first to try it out she is deeply and negatively affected by learning some things about her ancestors and having the public know them as well.


Completion becomes the goal of the Circle, though nobody is exactly sure what it would entail. It seems, by the end of the novel, that Mae's suggestion of all citizens being required to have a Circle account by law may bring Completion about.

Manifest Destiny

Manifest Destiny is a term for the attitude prevalent during the 19th-century period of American expansion that the United States not only could, but was destined to, stretch from coast to coast. This attitude helped fuel western settlement, Native American removal, and war with Mexico.


Demoxie is the technological fulfillment of the program Mae suggests, wherein all citizens might be required to have Circle accounts and forced to weigh in by vote on certain issues.

Constitutional Convention

The Constitutional Convention took place from May 25 to September 17, 1787 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to address problems in governing the United States of America, which had been operating under the Articles of Confederation following independence from Great Britain. Although the Convention was intended to revise the Articles of Confederation, the intention from the outset of many of its proponents, chief among them James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, was to create a new government rather than fix the existing one. The delegates elected George Washington to preside over the Convention. The result of the Convention was the creation of the United States Constitution, placing the Convention among the most significant events in the history of the United States.


The Ku Klux Klan (KKK), or simply "the Klan," includes three distinct movements in the United States. The first sought to overthrow the Republican state governments in the South during the Reconstruction Era, especially by violence against African American leaders. It ended in about 1871. The second was a very large, controversial, nationwide organization in the 1920s that especially opposed Catholics. The current manifestation consists of numerous small unconnected groups that use the KKK name. They have all emphasized racism, secrecy, and distinctive costumes. All have called for the purification of American society, and all are considered part of right-wing extremism.

Digital Brownshirts

The Sturmabteilung (also known as the SA or the Brownshirts because of the uniforms they wore) in Nazi Germany functioned as the original paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party. It played a significant key role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s. Their primary purposes were providing protection for Nazi rallies and assemblies, disrupting the meetings of opposing parties, fighting against the paramilitary units of the opposing parties, especially the Red Front Fighters League of the German Communist Party (KPD), and intimidating Slavic and Romani citizens, unionists, and Jews, such as during the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses. Again, Mercer mixes allusions to demonstrate his negative feelings toward Mae's involvement at the Circle and the actions they are taking.


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is a nonpartisan, non-profit organization whose stated mission is "to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States." Mercer uses the term to parody the way others view the Circle as supremely benevolent.


Eggers creates this term to connote total sharing of all information.