Circle through 3 Points
Geometry construction using a compass and straightedge

Given three points, it is always possible to draw a circle that passes through all three. This page shows how to construct (draw) a circle through 3 given points with compass and straightedge or ruler. It works by joining two pairs of points to create two chords. The perpendicular bisectors of a chords always passes through the center of the circle. By this method we find the center and can then draw the circle.

This is virtually the same as constructing the circumcircle a triangle. If you draw three lines linking the given points, you will get a triangle. The circumcircle passes through all three vertices, just as here.

Printable step-by-step instructions

The above animation is available as a printable step-by-step instruction sheet, which can be used for making handouts or when a computer is not available.

Proof

The image below is the final drawing above with the red items added.

  Argument Reason
1 JK is the perpendicular bisector of AB. By construction. For proof see Constructing the perpendicular bisector of a line segment
2 Circles exist whose center lies on the line JK and of which AB is a chord. (* see note below) The perpendicular bisector of a chord always passes through the circle's center.
3 LM is the perpendicular bisector of BC. By construction. For proof see Constructing the perpendicular bisector of a line segment
4 Circles exist whose center lies on the line LM and of which BC is a chord. (* see note below) The perpendicular bisector of a chord always passes through the circle's center.
5 The point O is the center of the only circle that passes through A,B,C. O is the only point that lies on both JK and LM, and so satisfies both 2 and 4 above.

  - Q.E.D

* Note
Depending where the center point lies on the bisector, there is an infinite number of circles that can satisfy this. Two of them are shown on the right. Steps 2 and 4 work together to reduce the possible number to just one.

Try it yourself

Click here for a printable worksheet containing two problems that use this construction technique. When you get to the page, use the browser print command to print as many as you wish. The printed output is not copyright.

Constructions pages on this site

Lines

Angles

Triangles

Right triangles

Triangle Centers

Circles, Tangents

Ellipses

Polygons

Non-Euclidean constructions

COMMON CORE

Math Open Reference now has a Common Core alignment.

See which resources are available on this site for each element of the Common Core standards.

Check it out