noun per·spec·tive \pər-ˈspek-tiv\

Definition of perspective


  1. :  an optical glass (such as a telescope)

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.

Origin and Etymology of perspective

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

First Known Use: 14th century



noun per·spec·tive \pər-ˈspek-tiv\

Definition of perspective

  1. 1a :  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 distanceb :  a picture in perspective

  2. 2a :  the interrelation in which a subject or its parts are mentally viewed places the issues in proper perspective; also :  point of viewb :  the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance trying to maintain my perspective

  3. 3a :  a visible scene; especially :  one giving a distinctive impression of distance :  vistab :  a mental view or prospect to gain a broader perspective on the international scene — Current Biography

  4. 4 :  the appearance to the eye of objects in respect to their relative distance and positions


play \pər-ˈspek-ti-vəl, ˌpər-(ˌ)spek-ˈtī-vəl\ adjective

Examples of perspective in a sentence

  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

  2. 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

  3. 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

Origin and Etymology of perspective

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

First Known Use: 1563

Other Fine Arts Terms



adjective per·spec·tive \pər-ˈspek-tiv\

Definition of perspective

  1. 1 obsolete :  aiding the vision his eyes should be like unto the wrong end of a perspective glass — Alexander Pope

  2. 2 :  of, relating to, employing, or seen in perspective perspective drawing



Origin and Etymology of perspective

Middle English, optical, from Medieval Latin perspectivus

First Known Use: 1570

PERSPECTIVE Defined for Kids


noun per·spec·tive \pər-ˈspek-tiv\

Definition of perspective for Students

  1. 1 :  the angle or direction in which a person looks at an object

  2. 2 :  point of view

  3. 3 :  the ability to understand what is important and what isn't I know you're disappointed, but keep your perspective.

  4. 4 :  an accurate rating of what is important and what isn't Let's keep things in perspective.

  5. 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

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up perspective? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


quaintly unconventional or refined

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

  • ludwig-richter-spring-has-arrived
  • Which is a synonym of upbraid?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.