re·​fract | \ri-ˈfrakt \
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

Image Her book is a personal history because Ethiopia’s public dramas and denouements are refracted through the domestic prism of her grandmother Yetemegnu’s life. Gaiutra Bahadur, New York Times, "She Didn’t Know How to Read, but Her Stories Captured History," 10 May 2018 Miró, whose Mediterranean landscapes refracted into constellation-like forms as his career progressed, is an indelible part of the artistic history of Barcelona and the world at large. Lilah Ramzi, Vogue, "Inside Joan Miró’s Just-Opened Farmhouse, Where the Artist’s Studio Is Perfectly Preserved," 18 May 2018 Each water droplet behaves like a small prism, refracting the light and reflecting it back to our eyes. Megan Arnett, Scientific American, "Make Your Own Rainbow," 26 Apr. 2018 Near dawn and dusk, refracted sunlight filtered through the stratus can create a kaleidoscope of color for a few minutes and add to the phenomenon. Tom Stienstra,, "’Tis the season for ‘Dancing with Fog’," 12 July 2018 All are propelled through the water by columns of cilia which refract light, producing a shimmering rainbow to rival any fireworks display. National Geographic, "Living Fireworks, These Animals Produce Light Shows with Their Bodies," 30 June 2018 Your certainty, your control, and your bright, assertive confidence might suddenly be refracted, scattered, or interrupted. Claire Comstock-gay, The Cut, "How Much Will Mars Retrograde Ruin My Life?," 26 June 2018 Rainbow Falls: Sun often refracts in the mist of this 100-foot waterfall for a prism effect, and sometimes creates a spectacular rainbow. Tom Stienstra,, "Trails, camps, lakes open for summer in Land of Muir," 17 June 2018 Outside the theater, blacks were becoming hard to ignore, and their impact was refracted on the screen. Olivia B. Waxman, Time, "The 'Pressure to Make Good for Your Whole People' and the Story Behind SuperFly," 15 June 2018

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

The first known use of refract was in 1612

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More Definitions for refract



English Language Learners Definition of refract

of an object or substance : to make (light) change direction when it goes through at an angle


re·​fract | \ri-ˈfrakt \
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 \

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)

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Comments on refract

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


by force of circumstances

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