plural noun

op·​tics ˈäp-tiks How to pronounce optics (audio)
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
: 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 White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby was asked about the optics of the visit. Haisten Willis, Washington Examiner, 6 Jan. 2023 After senior administration officials later raised concerns about the optics of the no-bid deal, VTC gave two other vendors a chance to vie for the job in May, but under tight deadlines dictated by a desire to roll the video out by June. Laura Vozzella, Washington Post, 10 Dec. 2022 But critics of Newsom’s proposal said pushing the bulk of the special session into next year shows that Democrats’ tough rhetoric was always about optics, not driving results. Dustin Gardiner, San Francisco Chronicle, 5 Dec. 2022 After more than a century, Leupold knows a thing or two about optics. Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley, Outside Online, 26 Oct. 2021 It is fully coated and is workably bright (though the optics are not in the class as others on this list). Tony Hansen, Field & Stream, 30 Jan. 2023 Garrett acknowledged that the optics of the situation aren't ideal for anyone, never mind a team captain, leader and one of the NFL's best defensive players. Tom Withers, BostonGlobe.com, 30 Dec. 2022 Still, the optics of Parsons’ theme were not so good for the Cowboys. Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY, 19 Dec. 2022 Perhaps worse are the optics, Kingsbury's offense middling at best amid underachieving QB Kyler Murray's constant ranting at his coach and teammates during games – and that was before Murray's season-ending knee injury. Nate Davis, USA TODAY, 12 Jan. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'optics.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1579, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of optics was in 1579

Dictionary Entries Near optics

Cite this Entry

“Optics.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/optics. Accessed 25 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


op·​tics ˈäp-tiks How to pronounce optics (audio)
: a science that deals with the nature and properties of light and the effects that it undergoes and produces

Medical Definition


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

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