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

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 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
2 plural in form but singular in construction : 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 — see also optic entry 2 sense 2a

Examples of optics in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web His rallies tend to attract overwhelmingly white audiences, and Conant said even if the president offers a message of unity, the optics of the event could overshadow that. Courtney Subramanian, USA TODAY, "Trump stirs anger with plans for Juneteenth rally in Tulsa, site of huge massacre of African Americans," 11 June 2020 The optics certainly look alike: Peaceful protests by day that sour into violence at night. Kevin Fagan, SFChronicle.com, "Why the anger over George Floyd’s killing is so much more intense," 31 May 2020 Board of Health members sparred mostly over the optics of unelected representatives imposing a sweeping and divisive rule on a diverse region. USA TODAY, "Post-rally surge, PPE stocks, antibody study: News from around our 50 states," 11 July 2020 While the optics of profiting from the misfortune that is the pandemic recession may look bad, proponents of the program say America's banks have been a lifeline for businesses during a devastating downturn. Anneken Tappe, CNN, "Big banks stand to earn hundreds of millions from PPP loan fees," 7 July 2020 The optics of sending stimulus payments to dead people didn’t look good for the administration. Michelle Singletary, BostonGlobe.com, "No, the IRS should not try to claw back $1.4 billion sent to dead people.," 28 June 2020 Super Jagere is an optics-ready thumper that can tackle most tasks. Chris Mudgett, Outdoor Life, "Why The 10mm is The Ultimate Handgun Cartridge for Hunting and Personal Defense (Plus 8 of Best Pistols You Can Buy)," 23 June 2020 Concha believes a lot of criticism the president has taken for continuing to hold campaign rallies and August's Republican National Convention may lie in the optics: a deadly contagion in a closed stadium seating 20,000 people. Fox News, "Joe Concha calls out hypocrisy of mainstream media on COVID shaming," 16 June 2020 Still, much of this is action in optics only: The full body of Congress will remain out of session until at least June 30, and no actual legislation can be voted on until then. Nicole Goodkind, Fortune, "Julián Castro urges the Biden campaign to work with local politicians to draw in protesters," 3 June 2020

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.

See More

First Known Use of optics

1579, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about optics

Time Traveler for optics

Time Traveler

The first known use of optics was in 1579

See more words from the same year

Statistics for optics

Last Updated

1 Aug 2020

Cite this Entry

“Optics.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/optics. Accessed 3 Aug. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for optics


How to pronounce optics (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of optics

: the science that studies light and the way it affects and is affected by other things


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 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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on optics

Spanish Central: Translation of optics

Nglish: Translation of optics for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of optics for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about optics

Comments on optics

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


Test Your Vocabulary

July 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • papercraft sunset
  • Which is a synonym of mien?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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