anything presented to the sight or view, especially something of a striking or impressive kind: The stars make a fine spectacle tonight.
a public show or display, especially on a large scale: The coronation was a lavish spectacle.
spectacles. eyeglasses, especially with pieces passing over or around the ears for holding them in place.
Often spectacles.
  1. something resembling spectacles in shape or function.
  2. any of various devices suggesting spectacles, as one attached to a semaphore to display lights or different colors by colored glass.
Obsolete. a spyglass.


    make a spectacle of oneself, to call attention to one's unseemly behavior; behave foolishly or badly in public: They tell me I made a spectacle of myself at the party last night.

Origin of spectacle

1300–50; Middle English < Latin spectāculum a sight, spectacle, derivative of spectāre, frequentative of specere to look, regard. See -cle2
Related formsspec·ta·cle·less, adjectivespec·ta·cle·like, adjectivesu·per·spec·ta·cle, noun

Synonyms for spectacle

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for spectacles

Contemporary Examples of spectacles

Historical Examples of spectacles

  • I fancied her ladyship in spectacles, with little side curls.


    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • The teacher sunk into a chair, and put his spectacles on his nose.

    Rico and Wiseli

    Johanna Spyri

  • The other turned his spectacles upon Ossipon like a pair of searchlights.

    The Secret Agent

    Joseph Conrad

  • Now I was provided with the book, I could not read for want of spectacles.

    Ned Myers

    James Fenimore Cooper

  • Bonnet, false front, and spectacles were tossed in a tumultuous pile.

    Tiverton Tales

    Alice Brown

British Dictionary definitions for spectacles


pl n

a pair of glasses for correcting defective visionOften (informal) shortened to: specs
pair of spectacles cricket a score of 0 in each innings of a match



a public display or performance, esp a showy or ceremonial one
a thing or person seen, esp an unusual or ridiculous onehe makes a spectacle of himself
a strange or interesting object or phenomenon
(modifier) of or relating to spectaclesa spectacle case
See also spectacles

Word Origin for spectacle

C14: via Old French from Latin spectaculum a show, from spectāre to watch, from specere to look at
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 spectacles

"glass lenses to help a person's sight," early 15c., from plural of spectacle.



mid-14c., "specially prepared or arranged display," from Old French spectacle, from Latin spectaculum "a show, spectacle," from spectare "to view, watch," frequentative form of specere "to look at," from PIE *spek- "to observe" (see scope (n.1)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

spectacles in Medicine




The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.