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critical angle

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noun
  1. Optics. the minimum angle of incidence beyond which total internal reflection occurs for light traveling from a medium of higher to one of lower index of refraction; the angle of incidence for which refracted rays emerge tangent to the surface separating two media, the light traveling from the medium of higher to the medium of lower index of refraction.
  2. Also called angle of stall, critical angle of attack, stalling angle. Aeronautics. the angle of attack, greater than or equal to the angle of attack for maximum lift, at which there is a sudden change in the airflow around an airfoil with a subsequent decrease in lift and increase in drag.
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Origin of critical angle

First recorded in 1870–75
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for critical angle

critical angle

noun
  1. the smallest possible angle of incidence for which light rays are totally reflected at an interface between substances of different refractive index
  2. another name for stalling angle
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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

critical angle in Science

critical angle

[krĭtĭ-kəl]
  1. The smallest angle of incidence at which radiation, such as light, is completely reflected from the boundary between two media. At angles smaller than the critical angle, some of the radiation enters the second material and is refracted.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.