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.
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. 2007Courses 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. 2006Tipper 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
Recent Examples on the Web
These fresh names usher in both novelty and a change of perspective.—José Criales-Unzueta, Vogue, 19 Sep. 2023 From a user’s perspective, everything else about these is identical to last year’s model.—Antonio G. Di Benedetto, The Verge, 18 Sep. 2023 And from Iran’s perspective, efforts to forge a new pact with a US administration that could potentially be ousted in those elections would be futile if the next president abandons it.—Nadeen Ebrahim, CNN, 18 Sep. 2023 One’s life experiences determine perspective, which means that any portrait, painting, sculpture, and the like, can be open to interpretation depending on who is standing in front of it.—Okla Jones, Essence, 17 Sep. 2023 The website also ranked states purely from a safety perspective, with Virginia, South Carolina, New Jersey, Maryland, and Idaho rounding the top five.—Stacey Leasca, Travel + Leisure, 15 Sep. 2023 From our perspective down here, on the surface of our planet, the stars are tiny, gleaming specks in an inky-dark universe.—Marina Koren, The Atlantic, 15 Sep. 2023 From Beijing’s perspective, Japan’s move on the islands appeared to be designed to exploit this instability in the highest levels of the leadership, which warranted a tough reaction.—M. Taylor Fravel, Foreign Affairs, 15 Sep. 2023 This book has too little plot — or plenty of it, depending on your perspective.—Bethanne Patrick, Los Angeles Times, 7 Sep. 2023
Introducing Dahmer, meanwhile, starts without sound, then gradually adds Dahmer’s voice, a perspective switch intended to invoke dread.—Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times, 1 Aug. 2023 While there has to be perspective about social-media posts regarding offseason workouts, the mere fact that they have been placed on Kyle’s timelines speaks volumes.—Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel, 6 Sep. 2022 In May 2020, Prather and her coauthors published a perspective article in the journal Science, explaining the airborne spread of Covid-19.—Brenda Goodman, CNN, 12 May 2023 This causes a perspective shift that appears to reduce excessive rumination and self-focus, which may allow people to escape unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors.—ELLE, 13 Apr. 2023 So the perspective candidates are for people [00:14:00] who want to run for the state legislature, and two who want to run for the Ohio democratic party central committee.—Laura Johnston, cleveland, 3 June 2022 Of all 16 perspective host cities, only Seattle can offer outdoor average highs as low as the 70s in July.—Ian Nicholas Quillen, Forbes, 28 Sep. 2021 The findings from Arnqvist and his team, Wyber notes, also help put the female’s perspective center stage—something widely lacking in research on animal mating.—Katherine J. Wu, The Atlantic, 6 July 2021 This is no perspective effect; that comet really was just above the Sun's surface, and most likely impacted the Sun or disintegrated from the heat.—Phil Plait, Discover Magazine, 7 July 2011 See More
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'perspective.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.
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
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