noun (1)
per·​spec·​tive | \ pər-ˈspek-tiv How to pronounce perspective (audio) \

Definition of perspective

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : a mental view or prospect to gain a broader perspective on the international sceneCurrent Biography
b : a visible scene especially : one giving a distinctive impression of distance : vista
2a : the interrelation in which a subject or its parts are mentally viewed places the issues in proper perspective also : point of view
b : the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance trying to maintain my perspective
3 : the appearance to the eye of objects in respect to their relative distance and positions
4a : the technique or process of representing on a plane or curved surface the spatial relation of objects as they might appear to the eye specifically : representation in a drawing or painting of parallel lines as converging in order to give the illusion of depth and distance
b : a picture in perspective



Definition of perspective (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : of, relating to, employing, or seen in perspective perspective drawing
2 obsolete : aiding the vision his eyes should be like unto the wrong end of a perspective glass— Alexander Pope


noun (2)

Definition of perspective (Entry 3 of 3)

: an optical glass (such as a telescope)

Other Words from perspective

Noun (1)

perspectival \ pər-​ˈspek-​ti-​vəl How to pronounce perspective (audio) , ˌpər-​(ˌ)spek-​ˈtī-​vəl \ adjective


perspectively adverb

Did you know?

To the modern mind, it's hard to believe that perspective had to be "discovered", but before the 1400s paintings simply lacked accurate perspective. Instead, important people and objects were simply shown larger than less important ones; and although distant objects were sometimes shown smaller than near ones, this wasn't done in a regular and accurate way. Just as odd, many paintings didn't represent the other meaning of perspective either—that is, a scene might not be shown as if it were being seen from one single place. Today, perspective is used much like standpoint. Just as standpoint once used to mean simply the physical place where you stand but today also means the way you "see" things as a result of who you are and what you do, the same could be said about perspective.

Examples of perspective in a Sentence

Noun (1) The elegant economy of the drawing and the wild inventiveness of such pictorial devices as the towering pitcher's mound and the impossible perspective of Snoopy's doghouse keep the repetitiveness, talkiness, and melancholy of the strip a few buoyant inches off the ground, and save it from being fey. — John Updike, New Yorker, 22 Oct. 2007 Courses offer an international perspective, so even a lesson on the American Revolution will interweave sources from Britain and France with views from the Founding Fathers. — Claudia Wallis et al., Time, 18 Dec. 2006 Tipper and I still marvel at everything we saw and the perspective it offered. At a moment when the country was still in the throes of the conflict over Vietnam, it was refreshing to see the best of America. — Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth, 2006

First Known Use of perspective

Noun (1)

1563, in the meaning defined at sense 4a


1570, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (2)

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for perspective

Noun (1)

Middle French, probably modification of Old Italian prospettiva, from prospetto view, prospect, from Latin prospectus — more at prospect


Middle English, optical, from Medieval Latin perspectivus

Noun (2)

Middle English perspectyf, from Medieval Latin perspectivum, from neuter of perspectivus of sight, optical, from Latin perspectus, past participle of perspicere to look through, see clearly, from per- through + specere to look — more at per-, spy

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The first known use of perspective was in the 14th century

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Cite this Entry

“Perspective.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for perspective


per·​spec·​tive | \ pər-ˈspek-tiv How to pronounce perspective (audio) \

Kids Definition of perspective

1 : the angle or direction in which a person looks at an object
3 : the ability to understand what is important and what isn't I know you're disappointed, but keep your perspective.
4 : an accurate rating of what is important and what isn't Let's keep things in perspective.
5 : the art of painting or drawing a scene so that objects in it seem to have their right shape and to be the right distance apart


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