camera obscura


cam·​era ob·​scu·​ra ˈkam-rə-əb-ˈskyu̇r-ə How to pronounce camera obscura (audio)
: a darkened enclosure having an aperture usually provided with a lens through which light from external objects enters to form an image of the objects on the opposite surface

Examples of camera obscura in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Mattel courts toy-shopping parents with sustainable products To a child, a box can be a doll’s house or a rocket ship, a camera obscura or a magic carpet sailing down the concrete slides in Golden Gate Park. Sonja Sharp, Los Angeles Times, 3 Aug. 2023 Williams built a frame over the hole where the camera obscura had been, providing a spot for Fortuna’s pedestal. Sam Whiting, San Francisco Chronicle, 6 Mar. 2023 At 18, Weber built a camera obscura, or pinhole camera, at home to test whether Vermeer might have used one. Nick Glass, CNN, 9 Feb. 2023 Long story short, this was the work that really established the idea that sight relies on rays of light stretching from objects to the eye, as well as introducing the camera obscura and discussing the physical mechanism of sight. Sean Carroll, Discover Magazine, 8 Jan. 2011 The museum’s researchers, however, said the brushstrokes contained no evidence of a link to the camera obscura, a type of pinhole camera. Zachary Small, New York Times, 7 Oct. 2022 Making a portable camera obscura was, for Morell, a breakthrough comparable to the invention of paint tubes in the late 18th century. Sebastian Smee, Washington Post, 2 Oct. 2022 Nights are lost to flitting thoughts or memories, like a camera obscura forcing me to sit through every triggering event of my life. Maybelle Morgan,, 11 Aug. 2022 Like a camera obscura of old times, Photolux Festival aims to display a clear and well-defined selection of work from the international photographic scene. Vogue, 27 Apr. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'camera obscura.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


New Latin, literally, dark chamber

First Known Use

1716, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of camera obscura was in 1716

Dictionary Entries Near camera obscura

Cite this Entry

“Camera obscura.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

More from Merriam-Webster on camera obscura

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!