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 spectacles (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 But for all his bullishness, some critics say that Cirque’s problems predate the pandemic and that its groundbreaking artistry has given way to facile story lines and kitsch spectacle, like acrobats in frog costumes. Dan Bilefsky, New York Times, "Will Cirque du Soleil Rise Again?," 17 May 2020 As the sun set one recent evening, a group of camp-dwellers sat on steps descending from the river levee and observed a near-daily spectacle: deported Mexican citizens being expelled to Mexico from the United States, where many had lived for years. Los Angeles Times, "Aid workers seek to avoid coronavirus outbreak at Matamoros migrant camp," 5 Apr. 2020 Not the spectacle, not the novelty, and certainly not as a favor to McLaren, who ended its brand ambassador contract with the driver at the end of 2019. Nathan Brown, Indianapolis Star, "Insider: Fernando Alonso sees promise in McLaren's evolution since failed 2019 Indy 500 bid," 26 Feb. 2020 The spectacle of Wisconsin residents lining up in person to vote Tuesday is a reproach to America’s outdated electoral system and the lack of voting by mail. Los Angeles Times, "Column: The next coronavirus rescue bill must fix all the problems of the last one," 8 Apr. 2020 But, as David Remnick wrote in this week’s magazine, that absence has an important purpose: The spectacle of New York without New Yorkers is the result of a communal pact. Rachel Riederer, The New Yorker, "New York City’s Empty Streets," 7 Apr. 2020 This is the antithesis of the urban spaces that have reinvigorated American cities in the past 20 years — where spectacle is the aim, not seclusion. John King, SFChronicle.com, "Urban parks will survive despite the coronavirus — they’ll change, as well," 26 Mar. 2020 By the time the partisan spectacle was over, a terrible precedent had been set of turning impeachment into just another crass political tool. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "The Democrats’ February Blues," 13 Feb. 2020 The spectacle was a bit surreal, and not only because the campaign could barely fill an Iowa coffee shop a year ago. Time, "Forget Iowa. The Democrats Now Have Bigger 2020 Problems," 6 Feb. 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

27 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Spectacle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spectacle. Accessed 2 Jun. 2020.

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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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