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[dih-frak-shuh n] /dɪˈfræk ʃən/
noun, Physics.
the phenomenon exhibited by wave fronts that, passing the edge of an opaque body, are modulated, thereby causing a redistribution of energy within the front: it is detectable in light waves by the presence of a pattern of closely spaced dark and light bands (diffraction pattern) at the edge of a shadow.
the bending of waves, especially sound and light waves, around obstacles in their path.
Origin of diffraction
1665-75; < New Latin diffrāctiōn- (stem of diffrāctiō) a breaking up, equivalent to Latin diffrāct(us) broken up (past participle of diffringere) + -iōn- -ion. See dif-, fraction
Can be confused Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for diffraction


(physics) a deviation in the direction of a wave at the edge of an obstacle in its path
any phenomenon caused by diffraction and interference of light, such as the formation of light and dark fringes by the passage of light through a small aperture
deflection of sound waves caused by an obstacle or by nonhomogeneity of a medium
Word Origin
C17: from New Latin diffractiō a breaking to pieces, from Latin diffringere to shatter, from dis- apart + frangere to break
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 diffraction

1670s, from French diffraction (17c.) or directly from Modern Latin diffractionem (nominative diffractio), noun of action from past participle stem of Latin diffringere "break in pieces," from dis- "apart" (see dis-) + frangere "to break" (see fraction).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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diffraction in Medicine

diffraction dif·frac·tion (dĭ-frāk'shən)
Change in the directions and intensities of a group of waves after passing by an obstacle or through an aperture.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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diffraction in Science
The bending and spreading of a wave, such as a light wave, around the edge of an object. See more at wave.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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diffraction in Culture

diffraction definition

The breaking up of an incoming wave by some sort of geometrical structure — for example, a series of slits — followed by reconstruction of the wave by interference. Diffraction of light is characterized by alternate bands of light and dark or bands of different colors.

The 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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