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

(1) : electromagnetic spectrum

(2) : radio spectrum

(3) : the range of frequencies of sound waves

(4) : mass spectrum

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

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

Their articles take you inside the halls of Congress, and cover the spectrum of policy issues being introduced, debated and voted on there. Chad Pergram, Fox News, "Jim Jordan, facing accusations of ignoring sexual abuse, faces political crisis," 7 July 2018 Here’s why blues, reds and yellows tend to dominate light spectrum of the natural world. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian, "Why Bioluminescence Evolved to Be Red Light, and Blue," 26 June 2018 And, the ideology of white supremacy that grew from being a slave nation still affects people across the spectrum of human colors. Jerry Large, The Seattle Times, "Seattle collection of rare artifacts reveals America’s past and present, and how little we know," 18 June 2018 The spectrum of what’s morally acceptable is broadening, at the same time that the most common disposal methods are coming under scrutiny for their environmental impact. Emily Atkin, WIRED, "The Powerful Groups Stonewalling a Greener Way to Die," 17 June 2018 The spectrum of what’s morally acceptable is broadening, at the same time that the most common disposal methods are coming under scrutiny for their environmental impact. Emily Atkin, The New Republic, "The Fight for the Right to Be Cremated by Water," 14 June 2018 But Madrid says Villaraigosa's entire message has been about elevating issues that, across the spectrum of age and political ideology, are central to Latino communities, chief among them jobs and the economy. Angela Hart, sacbee, "Antonio Villaraigosa hopes California Latinos dislike Donald Trump enough to vote," 1 June 2018 The overall spectrum of views on such matters is wide. The Economist, "The legacy of Germany’s student protests in 1968," 31 May 2018 Typically, researchers can measure how quickly a star orbits by looking at the spectrum of light emitted by the hydrogen inside the star. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "The Largest Neutron Star Ever, Found With a Clever New Technique," 30 May 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

5 Nov 2018

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

(1) : electromagnetic spectrum

(2) : mass spectrum

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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