spectrum

noun

spec·​trum ˈspek-trəm How to pronounce spectrum (audio)
plural spectra ˈspek-trə How to pronounce spectrum (audio) or spectrums
1
a
: a continuum of color formed when a beam of white light is dispersed (as by passage through a prism) so that its component wavelengths are arranged in order
b
: any of various continua that resemble a color spectrum in consisting of an ordered arrangement by a particular characteristic (such as frequency or energy): such as
(3)
: the range of frequencies of sound waves
c
: the representation (such as a plot) of a spectrum
2
a
: a continuous sequence or range
a wide spectrum of interests
opposite ends of the political spectrum
b
: kinds of organisms associated with a particular situation (such as an environment)
c
: a range of effectiveness against pathogenic organisms
an antibiotic with a broad spectrum
Phrases
on the spectrum
: exhibiting traits associated with autism spectrum disorder
… quiet areas and sensory bags with headphones … and other ways to help kids who are on the spectrum cope with unfamiliar, noisy surroundings.Rachel Molenda
… Stephanie Adams, cofounder of the Autism and Asperger's Society, said: "We started the society because we wanted to make a place where people on the spectrum can spend their time and not feel isolated. …"Kelsey Maxwell

Example Sentences

beautiful scarves in all the colors of the spectrum the complete spectrum of opinions on this hotly debated subject
Recent Examples on the Web Over time, the homes served a broad demographic spectrum. Jacques Kelly, Baltimore Sun, 21 Jan. 2023 Live Nation said audiences can expect soul staples and standards peppered throughout the set, showcasing the full spectrum of Seal's incredible repertoire. Kirby Adams, The Courier-Journal, 20 Jan. 2023 The movie runs the spectrum of the invasive processes women are put through, with up close looks at blood collecting, tissue harvesting, miscarriage, and one too many amniocentesis procedures. Borys Kit, The Hollywood Reporter, 20 Jan. 2023 Low glow flashes operate using light from the higher end of the red light spectrum, typically ranging from barely visible red light to completely invisible infrared light. Kurt Spurlock, Men's Health, 18 Jan. 2023 However, the possible harmful effects of nail polish dryers have not been studied, despite the devices using a different spectrum of UV light. Vanessa Etienne, Peoplemag, 18 Jan. 2023 From adrenaline-pumping actioners to uproarious comedies to captivating dramas, the time travel narrative traverses the film spectrum. Ruth Johnson, EW.com, 18 Jan. 2023 The cutting-edge offense being run by the Marquette men's basketball team has earned rave reviews from the entire spectrum of hoops hipsters. Ben Steele, Journal Sentinel, 18 Jan. 2023 For the full spectrum of sonar options, the Helix 9 also includes CHIRP, down scan, and side scan imaging. Ric Burnely, Field & Stream, 17 Jan. 2023 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

New Latin, from Latin, appearance — more at specter

First Known Use

1672, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of spectrum was in 1672

Dictionary Entries Near spectrum

Cite this Entry

“Spectrum.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spectrum. Accessed 27 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition

spectrum

noun
spec·​trum ˈspek-trəm How to pronounce spectrum (audio)
plural spectra -trə How to pronounce spectrum (audio) or spectrums
1
a
: the group of different colors including red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet arranged in the order of their wavelengths and seen when white light passes through a prism and falls on a surface or when sunlight is scattered by water droplets to form a rainbow
2
: a continuous range or series
a wide spectrum of interests

Medical Definition

spectrum

noun
spec·​trum ˈspek-trəm How to pronounce spectrum (audio)
plural spectra -trə How to pronounce spectrum (audio) or spectrums
1
a
: a continuum of color formed when a beam of white light is dispersed (as by passage through a prism) so that its component wavelengths are arranged in order
b
: any of various continua that resemble a spectrum in consisting of an ordered arrangement by a particular characteristic (as frequency or energy): as
c
: the representation (as a plot) of a spectrum
2
: a continuous sequence or range
specifically : a range of effectiveness against pathogenic organisms see broad-spectrum, narrow-spectrum

More from Merriam-Webster on spectrum

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


Words Named After People

  • name tags
  • Namesake of the leotard, Jules Léotard had what profession?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Solve today's spelling word game by finding as many words as you can with using just 7 letters. Longer words score more points.

Can you make 12 words with 7 letters?

PLAY