Terms and Definitions

Sometimes reading a scientific explanation is as difficult as reading Parseltongue. This section features definitions and etymology for the terms and phrases you will encounter as you explore the science of light. Etymology is the study of the history of words — when they entered a language, from what source, and how their form and meaning have changed over time. Ever wonder how the word optics got its meaning? OK — probably not but now you can find out!

Optics: : [op-tiks] - noun

A branch of physics that studies electromagnetic radiation (for example, light and infrared radiation), its interactions with matter, and instruments used to gather information due to these interactions. Optics includes the study of sight.

1541, from M.Fr. optique, obtique (c.1300), from M.L. opticus "of sight or seeing," from Gk. optikos "of or having to do with sight," from optos "seen, visible," from op-, root of opsesthai "be going to see," related to ops "eye," from PIE *oqw- "eye/see" (see eye). Optics "science of sight and light" is from 1579; optician is first attested 1687, after Fr. opticien.