dif·​frac·​tion | \ di-ˈfrak-shən How to pronounce diffraction (audio) \

Definition of diffraction

: a modification which light undergoes especially in passing by the edges of opaque bodies or through narrow openings and in which the rays appear to be deflected also : a similar modification of other waves (such as sound waves) or of moving particles (such as electrons)

Examples of diffraction in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Cloud iridescence occurs when small water droplets or small ice crystals scatter the sun's light through a process called diffraction. Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, 1 July 2021 Khan pointed out a group of students trying to figure out if the wavelength of light will impact a laser's diffraction into water. Brittany Trang, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 15 June 2021 The odd top-like shape, West said, might be attributed to diffraction spikes from the glare, similar to someone taking a picture of a flashlight shining directly into a camera lens. Andrew Dyer, San Diego Union-Tribune, 29 May 2021 The team took small samples from the black spot and analyzed them with X-ray fluorescence, synchrotron radiation powder x-ray diffraction, Raman spectroscopy, and gas chromatography mass spectrometry, among other methods. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, 28 Dec. 2020 The diffraction pattern of the X-rays allows researchers to build up a picture of the internal structure of the protein. Jeremy Kahn, Fortune, 30 Nov. 2020 Perhaps the spot-correction on your own Tinder profile perfectly correlates with the diffraction pattern of a double-slit experiment. Colin Heasley, The New Yorker, 27 Feb. 2020 Other goodies inside include a fiber-optic peacock and diffraction glasses. Popular Science, 10 Feb. 2020 In this case, the corona is caused by a diffraction pattern, resulting from moonlight bent around the edges of supercooled water droplets. Washington Post, 11 Jan. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'diffraction.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of diffraction

1672, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for diffraction

borrowed from New Latin diffrāctiōn-, diffrāctiō (Medieval Latin, "action of breaking in pieces"), from Latin diffrag-, variant stem of diffringere, diffrangere "to break up, break apart, shatter" (from dif-, assimilated form of dis- dis- + frangere "to break") + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of verbal action — more at break entry 1

Learn More About diffraction

Time Traveler for diffraction

Time Traveler

The first known use of diffraction was in 1672

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near diffraction



diffraction disk

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for diffraction

Cite this Entry

“Diffraction.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diffraction. Accessed 29 Nov. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for diffraction


dif·​frac·​tion | \ dif-ˈrak-shən How to pronounce diffraction (audio) \

Medical Definition of diffraction

: a modification which light undergoes in passing by the edges of opaque bodies or through narrow slits or in being reflected from ruled surfaces and in which the rays appear to be deflected and to produce fringes of parallel light and dark or colored bands also : a similar modification of other waves (as sound waves)

More from Merriam-Webster on diffraction

Britannica English: Translation of diffraction for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about diffraction


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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