noun, plural i·ris·es, ir·i·des [ir-i-deez, ahy-ri-] /ˈɪr ɪˌdiz, ˈaɪ rɪ-/.
  1. Anatomy. the contractile, circular diaphragm forming the colored portion of the eye and containing a circular opening, the pupil, in its center.
  2. Botany. any plant of the genus Iris, having showy flowers and sword-shaped leaves.Compare iris family.
  3. a flower of this plant.
  4. (initial capital letter) Classical Mythology. a messenger of the gods, regarded as the goddess of the rainbow.
  5. a rainbow.
  6. any appearance resembling a rainbow.
  7. Movies, Television. an iris-in or iris-out.
  8. Optics, Photography. iris diaphragm.
verb (used without object)
  1. Movies. to begin or end a take or scene with an iris-in or iris-out, achieved by manipulation of an iris diaphragm on the camera or by editing the film.

Origin of iris

1350–1400; Middle English < Latin Īris, īris < Greek Îris, îris rainbow, goddess of the rainbow, halo, iris flower or root, iridescent crystal; in some senses < New Latin < Greek: diaphragm of eye


  1. a female given name. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for iris

Contemporary Examples of iris

Historical Examples of iris

  • No one dared to use the rainbow but Iris, to whom it had been given by Jupiter.

    Classic Myths

    Mary Catherine Judd

  • In ancient art Iris is represented with wings and a herald's staff.

  • He was not a bad genealogist who said that Iris (the messenger of heaven) is the child of Thaumas (wonder).

  • Iris also appears to have been called from the verb 'to tell' (eirein), because she was a messenger.

  • She did not know but what he was now betrothed to Iris, and she did not care.

    Pretty Madcap Dorothy

    Laura Jean Libbey

British Dictionary definitions for iris


noun plural irises or irides (ˈaɪrɪˌdiːz, ˈɪrɪ-)
  1. the coloured muscular diaphragm that surrounds and controls the size of the pupil
  2. Also called: fleur-de-lys any plant of the iridaceous genus Iris, having brightly coloured flowers composed of three petals and three drooping sepalsSee also flag 3, orris 1, stinking iris
  3. Also called: rainbow quartz a form of quartz that reflects light polychromatically from internal fractures
  4. a rare or poetic word for rainbow
  5. something resembling a rainbow; iridescence
  6. short for iris diaphragm

Word Origin for iris

C14: from Latin: rainbow, iris (flower), crystal, from Greek


  1. the goddess of the rainbow along which she travelled to earth as a messenger of the gods
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

Word Origin and History for iris

late 14c., flowering plant (Iris germanica), also "prismatic rock crystal," from Latin iris (plural irides) "iris of the eye, iris plant, rainbow," from Greek iris (genitive iridos) "a rainbow; the lily; iris of the eye," originally "messenger of the gods," personified as the rainbow. The eye region was so called (early 15c. in English) for being the colored part; the Greek word was used of any brightly colored circle, "as that round the eyes of a peacock's tail" [Liddell and Scott].

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

iris in Medicine


n. pl. i•ris•es
  1. The round pigmented contractile membrane of the eye that is perforated in the center by the pupil, forms the front part of the vascular tunic, and is attached on the margin to the ciliary body.
Related formsiri•dal (īrĭ-dl, ĭrĭ-) null null adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

iris in Science


Plural irises irides (īrĭ-dēz′, ĭrĭ-)
  1. The colored, muscular ring around the pupil of the eye in vertebrate animals, located between the cornea and lens. Contraction and expansion of the iris controls the size of the pupil, thereby regulating the amount of light reaching the retina.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

iris in Culture



The colored membrane of the eye, surrounding the pupil, which by contracting and expanding regulates the amount of light that enters the eye.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.