Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are a new class of RNA involved in multiple human malignancies. However, limited information exists regarding the involvement of circRNAs in gastric carcinoma (GC). Therefore, we sought to identify novel circRNAs, their functions and mechanisms in gastric carcinogenesis. We analyzed next-generation RNA sequencing data from GC tissues and cell lines, identifying 75,201 candidate circRNAs. Among these, we focused on one novel circRNA, circNF1, which was upregulated in GC tissues and cell lines. Loss- and gain-of-function studies demonstrated that circNF1 significantly promotes cell proliferation. Furthermore, luciferase reporter assays showed that circNF1 binds to miR-16, thereby derepressing its downstream target mRNAs, MAP7 and AKT3. Targeted silencing or overexpression of circNF1 had no effect on levels of its linear RNA counterpart, NF1. Taken together, these results suggest that circNF1 acts as a novel oncogenic circRNA in GC by functioning as a miR-16 sponge.