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[spek-tuh-kuh l] /ˈspɛk tə kəl/
anything presented to the sight or view, especially something of a striking or impressive kind:
The stars make a fine spectacle tonight.
a public show or display, especially on a large scale:
The coronation was a lavish spectacle.
spectacles, eyeglasses, especially with pieces passing over or around the ears for holding them in place.
Often, spectacles.
  1. something resembling spectacles in shape or function.
  2. any of various devices suggesting spectacles, as one attached to a semaphore to display lights or different colors by colored glass.
Obsolete. a spyglass.
make a spectacle of oneself, to call attention to one's unseemly behavior; behave foolishly or badly in public:
They tell me I made a spectacle of myself at the party last night.
Origin of spectacle
1300-50; Middle English < Latin spectāculum a sight, spectacle, derivative of spectāre, frequentative of specere to look, regard. See -cle2
Related forms
spectacleless, adjective
spectaclelike, adjective
superspectacle, noun
1. marvel, wonder, sight, show. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for spectacles
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Mrs. Gorham glanced up over her spectacles at the circle of faces around the sitting-room table.

    Kit of Greenacre Farm Izola Forrester
  • Now I was provided with the book, I could not read for want of spectacles.

    Ned Myers James Fenimore Cooper
  • "I don't know nothin' about it," pleaded the old man, as he looked over his spectacles at the stern parent.

    Freaks of Fortune Oliver Optic
  • Bonnet, false front, and spectacles were tossed in a tumultuous pile.

    Tiverton Tales Alice Brown
  • Her grandfather threw down his newspaper and laid aside his spectacles.

British Dictionary definitions for spectacles


plural noun
a pair of glasses for correcting defective vision Often (informal) shortened to specs
(cricket) pair of spectacles, a score of 0 in each innings of a match


a public display or performance, esp a showy or ceremonial one
a thing or person seen, esp an unusual or ridiculous one: he makes a spectacle of himself
a strange or interesting object or phenomenon
(modifier) of or relating to spectacles: a spectacle case
See also spectacles
Word Origin
C14: via Old French from Latin spectaculum a show, from spectāre to watch, from specere to look at
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for spectacles

"glass lenses to help a person's sight," early 15c., from plural of spectacle.



mid-14c., "specially prepared or arranged display," from Old French spectacle, from Latin spectaculum "a show, spectacle," from spectare "to view, watch," frequentative form of specere "to look at," from PIE *spek- "to observe" (see scope (n.1)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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spectacles in Medicine

spectacles spec·ta·cles (spěk'tə-kəlz)
See glass.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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