re·​fract | \ ri-ˈfrakt How to pronounce refract (audio) \
refracted; refracting; refracts

Definition of refract

transitive verb

1a : to subject (something, such as a ray of light) to refraction
b : to alter or distort as if by refraction to refract that familiar world through the mind and heart of a romantic … woman— Anton Myrer
2 : to determine the refracting power of

Examples of refract in a Sentence

Light is refracted when it hits water.
Recent Examples on the Web Projected SolidLight objects accurately move, refract and reflect as if in real space. Tom Coughlin, Forbes, 27 Dec. 2021 Just adding five milligrams will change the color of an entire kilogram of cellulose, making the crystals refract shorter wavelengths, like greens and blues. Sara Harrison, Wired, 6 Dec. 2021 So the book reflects the ways a bunch of academic disciplines refract the idea of urbanism, of how to make a city that supports everyone who lives there. Adam Rogers, Wired, 10 Aug. 2021 That caused the light that was leaving the graphene’s surface to refract slightly, in addition to the changes the cells’ electric fields were already having on its reflectivity. Karmela Padavic-callaghan, Wired, 12 July 2021 When struck by sunlight, the pillars’ glossy skins refract a full rainbow of metallic hues. Washington Post, 18 June 2021 Korins has added to the galleries several large mirrored sculptures — some curved, some straight — that reflect and refract the digital images. Mark Kennedy, Star Tribune, 8 June 2021 The studio has previously penned a 348-foot motor yacht concept clad in reflective glass named Mirage, as well as a 295-foot superyacht concept known as Moonstone that sports a faceted steel hull to refract light and twinkle day and night. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 25 Feb. 2021 And while Earth has a thick atmosphere full of water vapor to reflect and refract all that light, Mars has only a little atmosphere, and it’s full of reddish dust. Adam Rogers, Wired, 23 Feb. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'refract.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of refract

1612, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for refract

Latin refractus, past participle of refringere to break open, break up, from re- + frangere to break — more at break

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Time Traveler for refract

Time Traveler

The first known use of refract was in 1612

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Last Updated

7 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Refract.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for refract



English Language Learners Definition of refract

: to make (light) change direction when it goes through at an angle


re·​fract | \ ri-ˈfrakt How to pronounce refract (audio) \
refracted; refracting

Kids Definition of refract

: to make (light) bend when it passes through at an angle Prisms refract light.


transitive verb
re·​fract | \ ri-ˈfrakt How to pronounce refract (audio) \

Medical Definition of refract

1 : to subject (as a ray of light) to refraction
2 : to determine the refracting power of or abnormality of refraction in (as an eye or a lens)

More from Merriam-Webster on refract

Nglish: Translation of refract for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of refract for Arabic Speakers


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