pan·​op·​tic | \ ˌpa-ˈnäp-tik How to pronounce panoptic (audio) \

Definition of panoptic

: being or presenting a comprehensive or panoramic view a panoptic view of the city

Panoptic Has Greek Origins

The establishment of panoptic in the English language can be attributed to two inventions known as panopticons. The more well-known panopticon was conceived by the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham in 1787. Bentham’s panopticon was a circular prison with cells arranged around a central tower from which guards could see the inmates at all times. The other panopticon, also created in the 18th century, was a device containing pictures of attractions, such as European capitals, that people viewed through an opening. Considering the views that both inventions gave, it is not hard to see why panoptic (a word derived from Greek panoptēs, meaning "all-seeing") was being used by the early 19th century.

Examples of panoptic in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Browne studies how surveillance technologies have objectified, categorized, and repressed black people, from the panoptic slave ships of the Middle Passage to modern policing tools deployed against protesters. Sidney Fussell, Wired, 19 June 2020 The pressures of anchoring a hit show compelled McGoohan to conjure a panoptic resort/prison for priceless intelligence assets called The Village, and cult history was made. Scott Thill, WIRED, 24 July 2009

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

First Known Use of panoptic

1826, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for panoptic

Greek panoptēs all-seeing, from pan- + opsesthai to be going to see — more at optic

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The first known use of panoptic was in 1826

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Cite this Entry

“Panoptic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for panoptic


pan·​op·​tic | \ (ˈ)pan-ˈäp-tik How to pronounce panoptic (audio) \

Medical Definition of panoptic

: permitting everything to be seen microscopic study of tissues treated with a panoptic stain

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