refraction

noun
re·​frac·​tion | \ ri-ˈfrak-shən How to pronounce refraction (audio) \

Definition of refraction

1 : deflection from a straight path undergone by a light ray or energy wave in passing obliquely from one medium (such as air) into another (such as glass) in which its velocity is different
2 : the change in the apparent position of a celestial body due to bending of the light rays emanating from it as they pass through the atmosphere also : the correction to be applied to the apparent position of a body because of this bending
3 : the action of distorting an image by viewing through a medium also : an instance of this

Illustration of refraction

Illustration of refraction

refraction 1: a light ray, b reflected ray, c refracted ray

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Did You Know?

The root of refraction is seen in the notion that the path of a ray of light or wave of energy is "broken" when it is deflected or turned. The effects of refraction can be seen in a rainbow, which is formed when light rays passing into (and reflecting out of) water droplets are bent at different angles depending on their color, so that the light separates into bands of color. The amount of refraction depends on the angle and the type of matter; refraction can occur even when passing through different kinds of air. A mirage, such as you might see in the desert or over a patch of asphalt in the summer, occurs when light passing through warm air meets the very hot air near the surface; reflecting the sky, it often resembles a lake.

Examples of refraction in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Going to space softens the agonies of the here and now even when the space story is just a refraction of an earthly problem. Lydia Kiesling, The New Yorker, "The Aspirational Android Parenting of “Raised by Wolves”," 5 Oct. 2020 But when the dust is rather faint, the refraction and reflection of light can contribute to stunning sunrises and sunsets, which may help to at least partially explain Sunday's sunset in Miami. Jeff Berardelli, CBS News, "Massive Sahara desert dust plume closing in on the United States," 26 June 2020 The dataset generated from the study is small, and the study does not try to explain how a stretchy buff could generate more light refraction from particles than no mask at all. Katherine Ellen Foley, Quartz, "Don’t give up on your buff just yet," 12 Aug. 2020 But when the dust is rather faint, the refraction and reflection of light can contribute to stunning sunrises and sunsets, which may help to at least partially explain Sunday's sunset in Miami. Jeff Berardelli, CBS News, "Massive Sahara desert dust plume closing in on the United States," 26 June 2020 But when the dust is rather faint, the refraction and reflection of light can contribute to stunning sunrises and sunsets, which may help to at least partially explain Sunday's sunset in Miami. Jeff Berardelli, CBS News, "Massive Sahara desert dust plume closing in on the United States," 26 June 2020 The press attention, combined with social media’s refraction of certain stories into trend roller coasters, has had the undeniable upside of an outpouring of genuine sympathy and generosity. David Maurice Smith, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Great Koala Rescue Operation," 10 June 2020 But when the dust is rather faint, the refraction and reflection of light can contribute to stunning sunrises and sunsets, which may help to at least partially explain Sunday's sunset in Miami. Jeff Berardelli, CBS News, "Massive Sahara desert dust plume closing in on the United States," 26 June 2020 But when the dust is rather faint, the refraction and reflection of light can contribute to stunning sunrises and sunsets, which may help to at least partially explain Sunday's sunset in Miami. Jeff Berardelli, CBS News, "Massive Sahara desert dust plume closing in on the United States," 26 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'refraction.' 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 refraction

1603, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for refraction

Time Traveler

The first known use of refraction was in 1603

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Statistics for refraction

Last Updated

24 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Refraction.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/refraction. Accessed 24 Nov. 2020.

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More Definitions for refraction

refraction

noun
re·​frac·​tion | \ ri-ˈfrak-shən How to pronounce refraction (audio) \

Kids Definition of refraction

: the bending of a ray when it passes at an angle from one medium into another in which its speed is different (as when light passes from air into water)

refraction

noun
re·​frac·​tion | \ ri-ˈfrak-shən How to pronounce refraction (audio) \

Medical Definition of refraction

1 : the deflection from a straight path undergone by a light ray or a wave of energy in passing obliquely from one medium (as air) into another (as water or glass) in which its velocity is different
2a : the refractive power of the eye
b : the act or technique of determining ocular refraction and identifying abnormalities as a basis for the prescription of corrective lenses

More from Merriam-Webster on refraction

Nglish: Translation of refraction for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about refraction

Comments on refraction

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