spectrum

noun
spec·​trum | \ ˈspek-trəm How to pronounce spectrum (audio) \
plural spectra\ ˈspek-​trə How to pronounce spectra (audio) \ 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

Remember, though, their shareholders spent billions to control these spectrum rights. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "How Government Can Get Brave About Spectrum," 14 June 2019 But the new wrinkles and some of the added intrigue to the regional championship come on the other end of the competitive spectrum. Luis Miguel Echegaray, SI.com, "Bermuda a Small Gold Cup First-Timer With Big Visions," 14 June 2019 At the opposite end of the atmospheric spectrum from their comic sequences is the famous dream ballet, in which Laurey takes a psychological journey, first joyful, then terrifying, that involves both Curly and Jud. Don Aucoin, BostonGlobe.com, "You’re doing fine, ‘Oklahoma!’," 14 June 2019 On June 11th his trial, which has been closely watched at the liberal end of America’s religious spectrum, reached deadlock after jurors failed to agree despite three days of deliberation. The Economist, "The gripping case of Scott Warren," 14 June 2019 Or, on the other end of the ice cream spectrum, a soft-serve cone from a creamy whip stand, especially if it's dipped in chocolate coating (even though that coating is always more like wax). Polly Campbell, Cincinnati.com, "Here's what you need to eat (and drink) in Cincinnati this summer," 13 June 2019 Each of the nearly two dozen candidates falls along an ideological spectrum, with Sanders being the furthest to the left. Nic Garcia, The Denver Post, "John Hickenlooper taking aim at socialism and Bernie Sanders in Democratic presidential primary," 13 June 2019 There is just one problem: Ordinary table salt is white and thus gives off a featureless spectrum. Shannon Hall, Scientific American, "Water on Europa—with a Pinch of Salt," 12 June 2019 His previous six selections in the round can be placed on a short spectrum that spans from horrible (Jonathan Cooper, 2013), to average (Deone Bucannon, 2014). Kent Somers, azcentral, "Kyler Murray isn't the only Cardinals first-round pick with something to prove," 11 June 2019

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

18 Jun 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
technical : an entire range of light waves, radio waves, etc.
: a complete range of different opinions, people, etc.

spectrum

noun
spec·​trum | \ ˈspek-trəm How to pronounce spectrum (audio) \
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 How to pronounce spectrum (audio) \
plural spectra\ -​trə How to pronounce spectra (audio) \ 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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