spec·​ta·​cle | \ ˈspek-ti-kəl How to pronounce spectacle (audio) also -ˌti-kəl \

Definition of spectacle

1a : something exhibited to view as unusual, notable, or entertaining especially : an eye-catching or dramatic public display
b : an object of curiosity or contempt made a spectacle of herself
2 spectacles\ ˈspek-​ti-​kəlz How to pronounce spectacle (audio) also  -​ˌti-​kəlz \ plural : a device used to correct defects of vision : glasses
3 : something (such as natural markings on an animal) suggesting a pair of glasses

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Examples of spectacle in a Sentence

He peered through his spectacles. the multimedia spectacles that have become established parts of the opening and closing ceremonies for the Olympic Games
Recent Examples on the Web The 50-foot beasts, which can weigh 90,000 pounds and live for 80 years, have become a popular spectacle for Bay Area coast-goers. Kurtis Alexander, SFChronicle.com, "Gray whale die-off pushes into second year. Can the giants survive?," 9 Jan. 2021 Several images of rioters scaling the wall, charging Capitol Police officers and one of a protester wearing a Viking headdress have circulated since the violent spectacle at the Capitol. Stephanie Toone, ajc, "BREAKING: Man in viral photo posing in Nancy Pelosi’s office during riots 1 of 13 facing federal charges," 8 Jan. 2021 World leaders decried the sorry spectacle, citing this nation’s storied status as an example for the world. BostonGlobe.com, "A sorry spectacle we all knew was coming," 6 Jan. 2021 The spectacle lasted 85 minutes, while the pop superstar traveled back in time to perform 21 songs from his decade-spanning career, including tracks from his 2015 album Purpose and his 2020 album Changes. Heran Mamo, Billboard, "You Can Now Rewatch Justin Bieber's 'Anyone' Performance From New Year's Eve Anytime," 6 Jan. 2021 Sooki came outside and was caught in the spectacle. Ann Patchett, Harper's Magazine, "These Precious Days," 5 Jan. 2021 Democrats have lapped up the spectacle, delighted in the GOP dissension, and watched Trump use his influence to ruin his legacy and possibly tank an election that has national consequences for the Republican Party. Barnini Chakraborty, Washington Examiner, "Trump, Biden hit Georgia ahead of runoffs, after president's call to Raffensperger emerges," 4 Jan. 2021 Democrats were watching the unfolding spectacle with outrage and a sense of foreboding over the future implications. New York Times, "Republicans Begin New Congress Feuding Over Bid to Overturn Election," 3 Jan. 2021 Back on the road during the pandemic, the circus, part of an industry that thrives on spectacle and audience reaction, has had to make adjustments. Nicki Koetting, Chron, "13 Chron stories y'all really should've read this year," 30 Dec. 2020

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for spectacle

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin spectaculum, from spectare to watch, frequentative of specere to look, look at — more at spy

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Time Traveler for spectacle

Time Traveler

The first known use of spectacle was in the 14th century

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Statistics for spectacle

Last Updated

14 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Spectacle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spectacle. Accessed 16 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for spectacle


How to pronounce spectacle (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of spectacle

: a very impressive show
: something that attracts attention because it is very unusual or very shocking
old-fashioned : a pair of lenses set into a frame and worn over the eyes


spec·​ta·​cle | \ ˈspek-ti-kəl How to pronounce spectacle (audio) \

Kids Definition of spectacle

1 : an unusual or impressive public display (as a big parade)
2 spectacles plural : glass sense 3
3 : an object of curiosity or contempt Don't make a spectacle of yourself!

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