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[kuh-lahy-duh-skohp] /kəˈlaɪ dəˌskoʊp/
an optical instrument in which bits of glass, held loosely at the end of a rotating tube, are shown in continually changing symmetrical forms by reflection in two or more mirrors set at angles to each other.
a continually changing pattern of shapes and colors.
a continually shifting pattern, scene, or the like:
The 1920s were a kaleidoscope of fads and fashions.
Origin of kaleidoscope
1817; < Greek kal(ós) beautiful + eîdo(s) shape + -scope Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for kaleidoscope
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • So, ever changing day by day, every man's life is but a kaleidoscope.

  • Mame—Mame and her kaleidoscope romances, insults, and adventures?

    Working With the Working Woman Cornelia Stratton Parker
  • All was but a confused mind-picture, changing as a kaleidoscope, blurred, shadowy.

    The Iron Pirate Max Pemberton
  • Then, in a moment, the whole picture changed with the rapidity of a kaleidoscope.

    The Heart of Unaga Ridgwell Cullum
  • A change—like the flashing colours of a kaleidoscope; like the phantoms of a dream!

    The Red Man's Revenge R.M. Ballantyne
  • But the kaleidoscope turns, and the pieces of glass are shifted.

    Pharaoh's Broker Ellsworth Douglass
  • The kaleidoscope having been turned, the pattern changed of itself.

    The Invention of a New Religion Basil Hall Chamberlain
  • The husband on the contrary changed to view like a kaleidoscope.

    In the South Seas Robert Louis Stevenson
  • How strange are the groupings we see, yet do not marvel at, in the kaleidoscope of life!

    Grif B. L. (Benjamin Leopold) Farjeon
British Dictionary definitions for kaleidoscope


an optical toy for producing symmetrical patterns by multiple reflections in inclined mirrors enclosed in a tube. Loose pieces of coloured glass, paper, etc, are placed between transparent plates at the far end of the tube, which is rotated to change the pattern
any complex pattern of frequently changing shapes and colours
a complicated set of circumstances
Derived Forms
kaleidoscopic (kəˌlaɪdəˈskɒpɪk) adjective
kaleidoscopically, adverb
Word Origin
C19: from Greek kalos beautiful + eidos form + -scope
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 kaleidoscope

1817, literally "observer of beautiful forms," coined by its inventor, Scottish scientist David Brewster (1781-1868), from Greek kalos "beautiful" + eidos "shape" (see -oid) + -scope, on model of telescope, etc. They sold by the thousands in the few years after their invention, but Brewster failed to secure a patent.

Figurative meaning "constantly changing pattern" is first attested 1819 in Lord Byron, whose publisher had sent him one. As a verb, from 1891. A kaleidophone (1827) was invented by English physicist Sir Charles Wheatstone (1802-1875) to make sound waves visible.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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