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 But over the spring, as the news cycle unfurled fresh hell by the minute like a fractal of horrors, I was forced to accept that every two or three functional days would be followed by a day of recovery. Karla L. Miller, Washington Post, 13 Oct. 2020 The special activities, already used by teachers, let users visit the International Space Station, tour landmarks in the Nation's Capital, learn to code with a robot, explore marine biology and explore 3-D fractals. Mike Snider, USA TODAY, 24 Mar. 2020 According to the space agency, the art form -- which is called fractals -- uses mathematical formulas to create art with an infinite variety of form, detail, color and light. Fox News, 7 Mar. 2020 Students will gain a greater understanding of biology, forensics, and epidemiology, and artists intrigued by fractal geometry can find new shapes to inform their designs. Popular Science, 15 Mar. 2020 Animal faces and eyes flash towards the audience, intermixed with galaxies and natural occurring patterns like the spiral fractal of a shell or the eye of a storm, to show the connectedness of all things. Valerie Lee, Billboard, 4 Dec. 2019 The news, like a fractal, repeats this betrayal of good intentions on every scale. Greg Jackson, Harper's magazine, 6 Jan. 2020 Nearby, a Grecian bust is caught, mid-scream; a fractal seems to turn; the cat’s eyes appear to widen. Washington Post, 24 Dec. 2019 Meander, Spiral, Explode is a playful, insightful taxonomy of narratives that while seeming to defy categorization, in fact take their innovative structures from patterns found in nature: fractals, cells, wavelets, and more. The Atlantic, 24 Dec. 2019

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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Time Traveler for fractal

Time Traveler

The first known use of fractal was in 1975

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Cite this Entry

“Fractal.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Jun. 2021.

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More from Merriam-Webster on fractal

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


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