Full Circle – Origins

What are the origins of the phrase full circle?

Where did it come from?

It could be much older than you think.

Some contend that Shakespeare originated the expression in his 1606 work, King Lear (Act 5, Scene 3). In the play, the character Edmund describes how his own treachery against the king has come back around to confront him …

The wheel is come full circle. I am here.

Resembling something like karma, Edmund experienced a moment of fate as he faced the consequences of his actions.

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Full Circle Origins - Littel's Living Age
Littell’s Living Age, 1868

An early known use of the phrase in modern literature is by Eliakim Littel.

Eliakim published Littell’s Living Age, a weekly literary periodical that was in print from 1844–1941.

It was a magazine comprised of selections from various British and American magazines and newspapers.

In Volume 103 from October-December 1869, Littel described his view of the evolution of literature since the 4th century BC, Herodotus and Thucydides

The wheel has gone its full circle, and we are again as we were in the infancy of literature and art.

Oprah Winfrey discusses how you can have an aha! moment.

Popular opinion today offers some to credit Oprah Winfrey as a source for the phrase, albeit slightly altered as an aha! moment.

The reference can be found in various episodes of her television show and in many of her own published personal experiences.

In the final episode of the Oprah Winfrey show she describes how she started the show holding on to the personal shame of being sexually abused. In the 25 years of personal growth during the show she experienced a full circle moment and learned how to release that shame, emerging as a powerful inspiration for others to do the same.

When did you hear the phrase for the first time? Did it mean something personal to you?

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Steve Coryell