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[priz-uh m] /ˈprɪz əm/
Optics. a transparent solid body, often having triangular bases, used for dispersing light into a spectrum or for reflecting rays of light.
Geometry. a solid having bases or ends that are parallel, congruent polygons and sides that are parallelograms.
Crystallography. a form having faces parallel to the vertical axis and intersecting the horizontal axes.
Origin of prism
1560-70; < Late Latin prīsma < Greek prîsma literally, something sawed, akin to prī́zein to saw, prīstēs sawyer Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for prism
  • But the researchers found that a prism with three faces spins even faster when dropped.
  • In essence, a new rainbow of physics emerges by shining old physics through a musical prism.
  • They reflect the full range of emotions, made more vibrant and poignant through the prism of warfare.
  • Newton uses a prism to demonstrate that white light can be broken down into a spectrum of colors.
  • East has played low-high in trumps, a prism signal to show that he has one even suit and three odds.
  • Many of them view politics through a military prism.
  • Now it's almost impossible to avoid seeing a vacation through the prism of your portable gadgets.
  • Flipping a toggle changed the mirror's angle so that the view to the rear was seen through a prism.
  • Unfortunately libs and dems only see things through the limited prism of equal outcomes.
  • Economics is less a slavish creed than a prism through which to understand the world.
British Dictionary definitions for prism


a transparent polygonal solid, often having triangular ends and rectangular sides, for dispersing light into a spectrum or for reflecting and deviating light. They are used in spectroscopes, binoculars, periscopes, etc
a form of crystal with faces parallel to the vertical axis
(maths) a polyhedron having parallel, polygonal, and congruent bases and sides that are parallelograms
Word Origin
C16: from Medieval Latin prisma, from Greek: something shaped by sawing, from prizein to saw
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 prism

1560s, a type of solid figure, from Late Latin prisma, from Greek prisma (Euclid), literally "something sawed," from prizein "to saw" (see prion). Meaning in optics is first attested 1610s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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prism in Medicine

prism (prĭz'əm)

  1. A solid figure whose bases or ends have the same size and shape and are parallel to one another, and each of whose sides is a parallelogram.

  2. A transparent body of this form, often of glass and usually with triangular ends, used for separating white light passed through it into a spectrum or for reflecting beams of light.

  3. Such a body used in testing or correcting imbalance of the extrinsic ocular muscles.

pris·mat'ic (-māt'ĭk) adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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prism in Science
  1. A geometric solid whose bases are congruent polygons lying in parallel planes and whose sides are parallelograms.

  2. A solid of this type, often made of glass with triangular ends, used to disperse light and break it up into a spectrum.

  3. A crystal form having 3, 4, 6, 8, or 12 faces parallel to the vertical axis and intersecting the horizontal axis.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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prism in Culture
prism [(priz-uhm)]

A solid figure in geometry with bases or ends of the same size and shape and sides that have parallel edges. Also, an object that has this shape.

Note: A prism of glass (or a similar transparent material) can be used to bend different wavelengths of light by different amounts through refraction. This bending separates a beam of white light into a spectrum of colored light.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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prism in Technology

A distributed logic language.
["PRISM: A Parallel Inference System for Problem Solving", S. Kasif et al, Proc 1983 Logic Prog Workshop, pp. 123-152].
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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