spectrum

noun
spec·​trum | \ ˈspek-trəm \
plural spectra\ ˈspek-​trə \ or spectrums

Definition of spectrum

1a : 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
2a : 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
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

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Synonyms for spectrum

Synonyms

diapason, gamut, range, scale, spread, stretch

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Examples of spectrum in a Sentence

beautiful scarves in all the colors of the spectrum the complete spectrum of opinions on this hotly debated subject

Recent Examples on the Web

The other end of the spectrum is someone who cannot function around the holidays. Brittney Mcnamara, Teen Vogue, "How to Cope With Binge Eating Disorder Over the Holidays," 17 Dec. 2018 On the more extreme end of the spectrum, a person may completely lose touch with reality during a manic episode. Jacqueline Andriakos, SELF, "This Is What a Bipolar Manic Episode Feels Like," 7 Dec. 2018 At the extreme ends of the spectrum, everyone agrees on things that are universally bad and universally good. Elizabeth Angell, Town & Country, "The Good Place Creator Michael Schur on How He Made Philosophy a Pop Culture Phenomenon," 6 Dec. 2018 CosRX has a lightweight texture, but sits closer to the jelly end of the spectrum and feels a little sticky to the touch. Bella Cacciatore, Glamour, "CosRX's Snail Essence Gave Me the Dewiest Skin of My Life," 3 Dec. 2018 This idea of escalating the matter by bluntly questioning the intermediate manager is the other end of the spectrum. Rob Walker, The Seattle Times, "When the boss wants to be Facebook friends — and you don’t," 28 Nov. 2018 The post, which immediately sparked a firey conversation, has already racked up hundreds of replies and thousands of tweets from individuals on both ends of the spectrum. Jessica Leigh Mattern, Country Living, "Chip Gaines Just Sparked a Hilariously Heated Debate with Wife Joanna," 4 Nov. 2018 The individual historic elements of your home fall on a spectrum: some will be more historically significant or worthy of preservation than others. Kate Wagner, Curbed, "To renovate or not to renovate?," 5 Sep. 2018 There has long been a healthy intersection between autism and computers, and untold numbers of people on the spectrum have become successful programmers and technicians. Kim Komando, Fox News, "Google Pixel 3, deadly laptops and more: Tech Q&A," 18 Aug. 2018

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.

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First Known Use of spectrum

1672, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for spectrum

New Latin, from Latin, appearance — more at specter

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Statistics for spectrum

Last Updated

15 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for spectrum

The first known use of spectrum was in 1672

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More Definitions for spectrum

spectrum

noun

English Language Learners Definition of spectrum

: the group of colors that a ray of light can be separated into including red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet : the colors that can be seen in a rainbow

: an entire range of light waves, radio waves, etc.

: a complete range of different opinions, people, etc.

spectrum

noun
spec·​trum | \ ˈspek-trəm \
plural spectra\ -​trə \ or spectrums

Kids Definition of spectrum

: the group of different colors including red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet seen when light passes through a prism and falls on a surface or when sunlight is affected by drops of water (as in a rainbow)

spectrum

noun
spec·​trum | \ ˈspek-trəm \
plural spectra\ -​trə \ or spectrums

Medical Definition of spectrum

1a : 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

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Comments on spectrum

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to gather or build up little by little

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