spec·​tral | \ ˈspek-trəl How to pronounce spectral (audio) \

Definition of spectral

1 : of, relating to, or suggesting a specter : ghostly We felt a spectral presence in the old ballroom. No ghost stood beside me, nor anything of spectral aspect; merely a motherly, dumpy little woman, in a large shawl, a wrapping-gown, and a clean, trim nightcap.— Charlotte Brontë
2 : of, relating to, or made by a spectrum especially : relating to or derived from the electromagnetic spectrum of visible light Surfaces can differ in the proportion of incident light they reflect (dark ones reflect less than light ones) and in the spectral composition of the light they reflect. Principles Of Neural Science Their examination supported the opinion that the stone was mined in India and cut in London. They also found that the spectral characteristics overlap those of known treated green diamonds. Lapidary Journal

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Other Words from spectral

spectrally \ ˈspek-​trə-​lē How to pronounce spectrally (audio) \ adverb

Examples of spectral in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Inexplicable noises, spectral sightings, sudden drops in temperature—something strange is going on at the British Museum. Killian Fox, The Economist, "Stories of an extraordinary world Are ghosts haunting the British Museum?," 15 May 2020 The light keeps the ghost company, or acts as an offering to keep away curses, or illuminates the stage as the spectral performer plays all night. The New Yorker, "at the epicenter of the pandemic.," 27 Apr. 2020 Perhaps Rake isn’t physically there but is a kind of spectral presence, guarding Ovi from the beyond. Josh Rottenberg, Los Angeles Times, "‘Extraction’ ending explained: Will there be a sequel to the Netflix action movie?," 24 Apr. 2020 Sarah and Matthew’s adult daughter, Leda, lingers like a spectral figure over the book. Danya Kukafka, New York Times, "During a Weekend in the Country, Secrets Simmer Between Old Friends," 14 Apr. 2020 By using infrared light to craft the image instead of visible light, scientists identified baby stars that were hidden behind the gaseous, spectral columns. Popular Science, "A new view of the Pillars of Creation gives further clues to its gassy demise," 14 Apr. 2020 But Heger also found some spectral fingerprints that were standing still as the stars moved around. Ryan C. Fortenberry, Scientific American, "The First Molecule in the Universe," 1 Feb. 2020 The centro storico is a desolate wasteland by day, spectral at night, extraordinary. Nicky Swallow, Condé Nast Traveler, "What It's Like to be in Italy During the Coronavirus Lockdown," 13 Mar. 2020 Beauty abounds: plastic fencing and barbed wire trace delicate patterns of light and shade; nighttime detonations read as spectral fireworks. Nancy Princenthal, New York Times, "Troubled Turf: The Photographs of An-My Le," 3 Apr. 2020

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

1769, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for spectral

Time Traveler

The first known use of spectral was in 1769

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Last Updated

22 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Spectral.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spectral. Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for spectral


How to pronounce spectral (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of spectral

literary : of, relating to, or suggesting a ghost
technical : of, relating to, or made by a spectrum


spec·​tral | \ ˈspek-trəl How to pronounce spectral (audio) \

Medical Definition of spectral

: of, relating to, or made by a spectrum

Other Words from spectral

spectrally adverb

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More from Merriam-Webster on spectral

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for spectral

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with spectral

Britannica English: Translation of spectral for Arabic Speakers

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