fractal

noun
frac·​tal | \ˈfrak-tᵊl \

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

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, sandiegouniontribune.com, "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 History exists in a million fractal ways in a million different places and according to a million different subjective experiences. Josephine Livingstone, New Republic, "Do University History Departments Have a Race Problem?," 25 Oct. 2017 There are fractal design elements, which its maker claims are not just a visual gimmick but actually enhance the structural integrity of the Isabella concept. Jens Meiners, Car and Driver, "Borgward Isabella Concept Aims to Revive a Reputation for Beauty," 19 Sep. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about fractal

Dictionary Entries near fractal

fraca

fracas

fracking

fractal

fracted

fraction

fractional

Statistics for fractal

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for fractal

The first known use of fractal was in 1975

See more words from the same year

More from Merriam-Webster on fractal

Britannica English: Translation of fractal for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: 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).

WORD OF THE DAY

playful or foolish behavior

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Autumn Words of the Day 2018

  • a-top-down-image-of-road-through-an-autumn-forest
  • Which is a synonym of fugacious?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Citation

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!