frac·​tal | \ ˈfrak-tᵊl How to pronounce fractal (audio) \

Definition of fractal

: any of various extremely irregular curves or shapes for which any suitably chosen part is similar in shape to a given larger or smaller part when magnified or reduced to the same size

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Other Words from fractal

fractal adjective

Did You Know?

This term was coined in 1975 to describe shapes that seem to exist at both the small-scale and large-scale levels in the same natural object. Fractals can be seen in snowflakes, in which the microscopic crystals that make up a flake look much like the flake itself. They can also be seen in tree bark and in broccoli buds. Coastlines often represent fractals as well, being highly uneven at both a large scale and a very small scale. Fractal geometry has been important in many fields, including astronomy, physical chemistry, and fluid mechanics. And even some artists are benefiting, creating beautiful and interesting abstract designs by means of fractals.

Examples of fractal in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

These fractals variously call to mind leaf capillaries, fanning branches of coral, and fluttering feathers. Harper's BAZAAR, "Daniel Humm & Givenchy," 9 Apr. 2019 Quantum fractals Quantum mechanics has a weird relationship with fractals. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, "Fractal structure produces fractal electrons with fractal energies," 2 Dec. 2018 In this view, existence spreads out like a fractal drawing, and there are countless nooks in which pocket universes can reside. Brian Resnick, Vox, "Stephen Hawking’s final paper makes a hopeful case for the limits of existence," 3 May 2018 The speaker is Marcia Stein, who will share her experiences and designs using Adobe Photoshop Elements, Frax HD (a fractal app for the iPad) and Electric Quilt along with inkjet printing on fabric. Linda Mcintosh,, "Local woman elected as state DAR leaders," 7 May 2018 The trippy video holds nothing back, featuring disembodied hands, Sistine-looking angels and ever-developing fractals. Morgan Enos, Billboard, "BØRNS Unveils Psychedelic Video For Electro-Pop Jam 'We Don't Care': Premiere," 13 Apr. 2018 Enlightenment is a distant shore for me but these moments are undeniably fractals of a larger mosaic. Elizabeth Greenwood, Longreads, "The Month of Giving Dangerously," 31 Jan. 2018 Over the course of his career, his use of fractal patterns increased, and seeking out these spirals has even been used to root out fake paintings. Erin Blakemore, Smithsonian, "Scientists Spot Cognitive Decline in Famous Artists’ Brushstrokes," 2 Jan. 2017 Other examples of nature’s fractals include clouds, rivers, coastlines and mountains. Richard Taylor, Smithsonian, "Fractal Patterns in Nature and Art Are Aesthetically Pleasing and Stress-Reducing," 31 Mar. 2017

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

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First Known Use of fractal

1975, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for fractal

borrowed from French fractal (adjective), fractale (noun), from Latin frāctus (past participle of frangere "to break, shatter") + French -al -al entry 1, -ale -al entry 2 — more at break entry 1

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Last Updated

26 Apr 2019

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Time Traveler for fractal

The first known use of fractal was in 1975

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More from Merriam-Webster on fractal

Britannica English: Translation of fractal for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about fractal

Comments on fractal

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


to move with exaggerated bouncy motions

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