Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Medical
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


noun fo·cus \ˈfō-kəs\

Simple Definition of focus

  • : a subject that is being discussed or studied : the subject on which people's attention is focused

  • : a main purpose or interest

  • : a point at which rays of light, heat, or sound meet or from which they move apart or appear to move apart; especially : the point at which an image is formed by a mirror, a lens, etc.

Full Definition of focus

plural fo·ci play \ˈfō-ˌsī also -ˌkī\ also fo·cus·es

  1. 1 a :  a point at which rays (as of light, heat, or sound) converge or from which they diverge or appear to diverge; specifically :  the point where the geometrical lines or their prolongations conforming to the rays diverging from or converging toward another point intersect and give rise to an image after reflection by a mirror or refraction by a lens or optical system b :  a point of convergence of a beam of particles (as electrons)

  2. 2 a :  focal length b :  adjustment for distinct vision; also :  the area that may be seen distinctly or resolved into a clear image c :  a state or condition permitting clear perception or understanding <tried to bring the issues into focus> d :  direction 6c <the team lost focus>

  3. 3 :  one of the fixed points that with the corresponding directrix defines a conic section

  4. 4 :  a localized area of disease or the chief site of a generalized disease or infection

  5. 5 a :  a center of activity, attraction, or attention <the focus of the meeting was drug abuse> b :  a point of concentration

  6. 6 :  the place of origin of an earthquake or moonquake

  7. 7 :  directed attention :  emphasis

fo·cus·less play \-ləs\ adjective
in focus
  1. :  having or giving the proper sharpness of outline due to good focusing

out of focus
  1. :  not in focus

Examples of focus

  1. He's successful, but he feels that his life lacks focus.

  2. His life lacks a focus.

Origin of focus

New Latin, from Latin, hearth

First Known Use: 1644

Other Pictures (on film) Terms

Rhymes with focus



verb fo·cus

Simple Definition of focus

  • : to cause (something, such as attention) to be directed at something specific

  • : to direct your attention or effort at something specific

  • : to adjust (something, such as a lens or a camera) to make an image clear

Full Definition of focus

fo·cused also fo·cussedfo·cus·ing also fo·cus·sing

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 a :  to bring into focus b :  to adjust the focus of (as the eye or a lens)

  3. 2 :  to cause to be concentrated <focused their attention on the most urgent problems>

  4. 3 :  to bring (as light rays) to a focus :  concentrate

  5. intransitive verb
  6. 1 :  to come to a focus :  converge

  7. 2 :  to adjust one's eye or a camera to a particular range

  8. 3 :  to concentrate attention or effort

fo·cus·able play \-kə-sə-bəl\ adjective
fo·cus·er noun

Examples of focus

  1. She has an amazing ability to focus for hours at a time.

  2. I wasn't able to focus the camera.

  3. I wasn't able to get the camera to focus.


First Known Use of focus


Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up focus? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 8, 2016

to clear from accusation or blame

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?

kittly-benders spindrift pince-nez duvet
Name That Thing

10 quick questions: hear them, spell them, and see how your skills compare to the crowd.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.