plural noun
op·​tics | \ˈäp-tiks \

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

Plus, Barrett is a woman, a mother of seven, in her mid-40s, and a person of faith, all aspects that may appeal to Trump on an optics level, CNN adds. Megan Friedman, Marie Claire, "Would Amy Coney Barrett Vote Against Roe v. Wade? Trump's SCOTUS Frontrunner Is Resolute," 5 July 2018 But from an optics standpoint, Clune questioned the message being sent to the MSU community. Gina Kaufman, Detroit Free Press, "Victim advocates fume over Michigan State attorney's new job on campus," 29 June 2018 Finding answers could help women like Sheryl Greene, 50, a fiber optics saleswoman in Roanoke, Va. Marie Mccullough, Philly.com, "What the latest news on breast cancer, chemo and genomic testing could mean for you," 5 June 2018 And while the Nasdaq Composite was relatively flat, shares of other fiber optics makers also rose. Lucinda Shen, Fortune, "Saving ZTE Isn't Just About Chinese Jobs. Americans Firms Also Have a Lot to Lose," 14 May 2018 While Jackson has denied the allegations, Hill Republicans were consumed Tuesday with managing yet another optics crisis for the White House. Lauren Fox, CNN, "Some lawmakers fear White House vetting isn't good enough on nominees," 24 Apr. 2018 As the city is currently designing a fiber optics cable that will bring high-speed Internet to every resident and business in the 90210, citizens would be able to request this on-demand transportation from their smartphones. Devin Alessio, ELLE Decor, "Driverless Cars Are About To Hit The Road In Beverly Hills," 21 Apr. 2016 In its 136,000 square foot facility in Orlando (an optics industry hub), the company has dropped the build time for a single unit from about a day, to eight minutes. Alex Davies, WIRED, "Luminar's New Lidar Could Bring Vision to Every Robocar in the World," 12 Apr. 2018 The location is everything for optics and optics is everything for politics. Jessica Meyers, latimes.com, "Ulan Bator? A ship at sea? The logistical nightmare of picking a venue for Trump to meet with Kim Jong Un," 12 Mar. 2018

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.

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First Known Use of optics

1579, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for optics

The first known use of optics was in 1579

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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 \

Kids Definition of optics

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

op·​tics | \ˈäp-tiks \

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

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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).


living or existing for a long time

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