phosphene

noun
phos·​phene | \ˈfäs-ˌfēn \

Definition of phosphene 

: an impression of light that occurs without light entering the eye and is usually caused by stimulation of the retina (as by pressure on the eyeball when the lid is closed) or by excitation of neurons in the visual system (as by transcranial magnetic stimulation) Early studies have demonstrated that direct electrical stimulation to neurons of the visual system will cause a subject to perceive points of light (phosphenes).— George Scarlatis

Phosphenes Is the Word You're Looking for

Phosphenes are the luminous floating stars, zigzags, swirls, spirals, squiggles, and other shapes that you see when closing your eyes tight and pressing them with your fingers. Basically, these phenomena occur when the cells of the retina are stimulated by rubbing or after a forceful sneeze, cough, or blow to the head. The word phosphene comes from the Greek words phōs (light) and phainein (to show). Phainein is also a contributing element in such words as diaphanous, emphasis, epiphany, and phenomenon, among others.

First Known Use of phosphene

1852, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for phosphene

International Scientific Vocabulary phos- + Greek phainein to show — more at fancy

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about phosphene

Listen to Our Podcast about phosphene

Statistics for phosphene

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for phosphene

The first known use of phosphene was in 1852

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for phosphene

phosphene

noun
phos·​phene | \ˈfäs-ˌfēn \

Medical Definition of phosphene 

: a luminous impression that occurs when the retina undergoes nonluminous stimulation (as by pressure on the eyeball when the lid is closed)

More from Merriam-Webster on phosphene

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about phosphene

Comments on phosphene

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

WORD OF THE DAY

noxious or harmful

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A Thanksgiving Word Quiz

  • a-traditional-thanksgiving-dinner
  • November comes from a word for which of the following numbers?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

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

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!