1

focus

noun fo·cus \ ˈfō-kəs \
Updated on: 4 Dec 2017

Definition of focus

plural foci play \ˈfō-ˌsī also -ˌkī\ also focuses
1 a : a center of activity, attraction, or attention
  • the focus of the meeting was drug abuse
  • put immigration into focus as a hot topic for commentators
b : a point of concentration
2 : directed attention : emphasis
  • The focus is on helping the homeless.
3 a : direction 6c
  • the team lost focus
b : a state or condition permitting clear perception or understanding
  • tried to bring the issues into focus
c : adjustment for distinct vision; also : the area that may be seen distinctly or resolved into a clear image
4 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 (see convergence 1) of a beam of particles (such as electrons)
5 : one of the fixed points that with the corresponding directrix defines a conic section
6 : a localized area of disease or the chief site of a generalized disease or infection
7 : the place of origin of an earthquake or moonquake

focusless

play \ˈfō-kəs-ləs\ adjective
in focus
: having or giving the proper sharpness of outline due to good focusing
  • get the binoculars in focus
out of focus
: not in focus

Examples of focus in a Sentence

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

  2. His life lacks a focus.

Recent Examples of focus from the Web

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

Did You Know?

The Latin word focus meant “hearth, fireplace.” In the scientific Latin of the 17th century, the word is used to refer to the point at which rays of light refracted by a lens converge. Because rays of sunlight when directed by a magnifying glass can produce enough heat to ignite paper, a word meaning “fireplace” is quite appropriate as a metaphor to describe their convergence point. From this sense of focus have arisen extended senses such as “center of activity.”

Origin and Etymology of focus

New Latin, from Latin, hearth

Other Pictures (on film) Terms


2

focus

verb

Definition of focus

focused also focussed; focusing also focussing
transitive verb
1 : to cause to be concentrated
  • focused their attention on the most urgent problems
2 a : to adjust the focus of (the eye, a lens, etc.)
  • focus the telescope
b : to bring into focus
  • The results of that research were focused for classroom presentation.
3 : to bring (something, such as light rays) to a focus : concentrate
intransitive verb
1 : to concentrate attention or effort
  • focus on the most pressing needs
2 : to adjust one's eye or a camera to a particular range
  • Newborn babies cannot focus for several months.
3 : to come to a focus : converge

focusable

play \ˈfō-kə-sə-bəl\ adjective

focuser

noun

Examples of focus in a Sentence

  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.

Recent Examples of focus from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of focus

see 1focus

focus Synonyms

Synonyms
center, fasten, concentrate, rivet, train
Related Words
aim, direct, home (in on), hone in (on), level, nail, point, set, zero (in on); attend, heed, mind; fixate (on), obsess (over); refocus


FOCUS Defined for English Language Learners

focus

noun

Definition of focus for English Language Learners

  • : 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.


focus

verb

Definition of focus for English Language Learners

  • : 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


FOCUS Defined for Kids

1

focus

noun fo·cus \ ˈfō-kəs \

Definition of focus for Students

plural foci \ˈfō-ˌsī\ also focuses
1 : a point at which rays (as of light, heat, or sound) meet after being reflected or bent : the point at which an image is formed
2 : the distance from a lens or mirror to a focus
3 : an adjustment that gives clear vision
  • He turned his head almost upside down to get a more acute focus on her …
  • —Jean Craighead George, Julie of the Wolves
4 : a center of activity or interest
  • Fractions are the focus of this lesson.

History for focus

We usually associate the word focus with a sharp image, and hence with light, but the word was first applied to heat. Scientists in the 1600s chose the Latin word focus (meaning “fireplace, hearth”) for the point at which rays of sunlight gathered by a magnifying glass converge and cause something to catch fire. Because light as well as heat is directed by a lens, the expansion of the sense was quite natural.


2

focus

verb

Definition of focus for Students

focused also focussed; focusing also focussing
1 : to bring or come to a focus
  • focus rays of light
2 : to adjust the focus of
  • He focused his binoculars.
3 : to direct or cause to direct at
  • Focus your attention here.

Medical Dictionary

1

focus

noun fo·cus \ ˈfō-kəs \

medical Definition of focus

plural foci \ˈfō-ˌsī also -ˌkī\ also focuses
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 a : focal length
b : adjustment for distinct vision; also : the area that may be seen distinctly or resolved into a clear image
3 : a localized area of disease or the chief site of a generalized disease or infection

2

focus

verb

medical Definition of focus

focused also focussed; focusing also focussing
transitive verb
1 : to bring (as light rays) to a focus
2 a : to adjust the focus of (as the eye or a lens)
b : to bring (as an image) into focus
intransitive verb
1 : to come to a focus
2 : to adjust one's eye or a camera to a particular range

focusable

play \-kəs-ə-bəl\ adjective


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).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

WORD OF THE DAY

of, relating to, or being an oracle

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Intact Latin Quiz

  • roman-tablet
  • What did focus mean in Latin?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

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

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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