great circle

great circle (plural great circles)

  1. (geometry) A circle defined as the intersection of the surface of a sphere and a plane which passes through the centre of the sphere.
  2. A segment of such circle representing the shortest distance between two points on the surface of a sphere.
    • 1902, S. L. Penfield, "Use of the Stereographic Projection for Geographical Maps and Sailing Charts", in American Journal of Science
      Wherever a navigator may be, it certainly would be to his advantage to be able to find the great circle, or shortest course, and the distance, to his port of destination, [....]
    • 2003, Jeff Toghill, The Navigator's Handbook: Essential Methods and Equipment--and how to Use Them
      The shortest distance between two points on an ocean Mercator chart is not a straight line - it is a curve known as a 'great circle'.
    Synonyms: great-circle arc

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