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Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for spectacle in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)


From Middle English spectacle, from French spectacle, from Latin spectāculum (a show, spectacle), from spectō (to see, behold), frequentative of speciō (to see). See species.


  • IPA(key): /ˈspɛktəkl̩/
  • Hyphenation: spec‧ta‧cle
  • (file)


spectacle (plural spectacles)

  1. An exciting or extraordinary scene, exhibition, performance etc.
    The horse race was a thrilling spectacle.
    • 22 March 2012, Scott Tobias, AV Club The Hunger Games[1]
      In movie terms, it suggests Paul Verhoeven in Robocop/Starship Troopers mode, an R-rated bloodbath where the grim spectacle of children murdering each other on television is bread-and-circuses for the age of reality TV, enforced by a totalitarian regime to keep the masses at bay.
  2. An embarrassing or unedifying scene or situation.
    He made a spectacle out of himself.
  3. (usually in the plural) An optical instrument consisting of two lenses set in a light frame, and worn to assist sight, to obviate some defect in the organs of vision, or to shield the eyes from bright light.
  4. (figurative) An aid to the intellectual sight.
    • (Can we date this quote by Chaucer and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      Poverty a spectacle is, as thinketh me, Through which he may his very friends see.
  5. (obsolete) A spyglass; a looking-glass.
  6. The brille of a snake.
  7. (rail transport) A frame with different coloured lenses on a semaphore signal through which light from a lamp shines at night, often a part of the signal arm.


Related terms[edit]


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Further reading[edit]



From Latin spectaculum, from spectare (to look).



spectacle m (plural spectacles)

  1. a show, a spectacle, a performance, a concert
  2. a sight, a showing, a display
    Devant un tel spectacle ils se jetèrent à genoux pleurant les morts de leurs compatriotes. — They went down on their knees crying for the deaths of their fellow countrymen at this atrocious sight.


  • Czech: spektákl
  • Polish: spektakl

Further reading[edit]