pan·​op·​tic ˌpa-ˈnäp-tik How to pronounce panoptic (audio)
: being or presenting a comprehensive or panoramic view
a panoptic view of the city

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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 Cheeky or humble, a name like Tiny Universe belies the wide cosmology above Karl Denson, a panoptic saxophonist and bandleader at home in any constellation of the blues – whether abreast of Lenny Kravitz and The Rolling Stones, or as helmsman of his own vessel. Nathan Rizzo | For The Oregonian/oregonlive, oregonlive, 5 Jan. 2022 There the internet became mandatory and panoptic. 1843, 19 June 2020 Visitors to this point of gathering and reflection would have panoptic views of the city, with Dealey Plaza and the downtown skyline in one direction and the future Trinity park in the other. Mark Lamster, Reimagining Dealey: We asked a team of leading designers to redesign one of Dallas' most significant spaces, 20 Oct. 2022 The panoptic awareness created by virality is an Eye of Sauron, a lidless and unceasing glare that will follow you to the ends of the earth. WIRED, 1 Dec. 2022 This was hardly the first significant English poetry anthology, but Quiller-Couch’s attempt to go panoptic, to view with clarity two-thirds of a millennium of verse, pointed to something new. Brad Leithauser, WSJ, 12 Aug. 2022 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 See More

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

Word History


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

First Known Use

1826, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of panoptic was in 1826


Dictionary Entries Near panoptic

Cite this Entry

“Panoptic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Oct. 2023.

Medical Definition


pan·​op·​tic (ˈ)pan-ˈäp-tik How to pronounce panoptic (audio)
: permitting everything to be seen
microscopic study of tissues treated with a panoptic stain

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