plural noun
op·​tics | \ ˈäp-tiks How to pronounce optics (audio) \

Definition of optics

1 plural in form but usually singular in construction : a science that deals with the genesis and propagation of light, the changes that it undergoes and produces, and other phenomena closely associated with it But before we deal with telescopes, you need to understand a little about optics—how light is controlled.— Michael Zeilik et al. Everything we know suggests that [eyeglasses] were invented by chance, and by laymen who were not learned in optics.— Daniel J. Boorstin — see also optic entry 2 sense 2a
2 : the aspects of an action, policy, or decision (as in politics or business) that relate to public perceptions … when a broken-down bailout recipient like Citigroup tries to pay its top executives gigantic bonuses or to acquire a new private jet, it has failed to reconsider the optics.— Nick Paumgarten Skilling said Baxter "was concerned about the optics of the conflict, but not about the ethics or propriety of the transactions," according to interview memos.— Peter Behr and April Witt

Examples of optics in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The optics aren’t great, but the park promises that its water is filtered and reused. Laura Blasey, Los Angeles Times, 15 July 2022 The optics of the situation were so bad that IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig almost immediately referred the matter to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) for investigation. Amber Gray-fenner, Forbes, 11 July 2022 The optics are terrible—and yet entirely self-inflicted. Jason Gay, WSJ, 28 June 2022 The optics of his foreign trips are carefully curated. Arundhati Roy, CNN, 22 June 2022 Obviously the optics and digital photography has come leaps and bounds since Hubble was launched back in 1990. Ed Stannard, Hartford Courant, 12 July 2022 White House lawyers were urging the speechwriters not to include those words for optics and legal reasons. CBS News, 29 June 2022 Early on, the syllabus clearly acknowledges this optics and precedence issue. Erin Spencer Sairam, Forbes, 24 June 2022 According to the Pentagon’s accounting, the equipment sent to Ukraine includes more than 50,000 sets of body armor and helmets, 2,000 optics and laser range finders, night-vision devices, thermal imagery systems and more. Karoun Demirjian, Washington Post, 2 June 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of optics

1579, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Learn More About optics

Dictionary Entries Near optics

optic rod


optic sign

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for optics

Last Updated

2 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Optics.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/optics. Accessed 13 Aug. 2022.

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

More Definitions for optics


op·​tics | \ ˈäp-tiks How to pronounce optics (audio) \

Kids Definition of optics

: a science that deals with the nature and properties of light and the changes that it undergoes and produces


noun, plural in form but singular or plural in construction
op·​tics | \ ˈäp-tiks How to pronounce optics (audio) \

Medical Definition of optics

1 : a science that deals with the genesis and propagation of light, the changes that it undergoes and produces, and other phenomena closely associated with it
2 : optical properties

More from Merriam-Webster on optics

Nglish: Translation of optics for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of optics for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about optics


Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Words You Should Know

  • hedgehog reading a book
  • Often used to describe “the march of time,” what does inexorable mean?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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