The Meaning of Spectrum: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of spectrum? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word spectrum, including its definition, usage, word origin, and more!

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What does the word spectrum mean?

According to Collins English Dictionary, Your Dictionary and the American Heritage Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, the word spectrum is a noun that can mean a couple of different things. The word spectrum can refer to a range of different colors that are produced when sunlight or a beam of white light passes through a glass prism or through a drop of water, and the particles show up as a rainbow. The rainbow is made up of seven different colors – ROY G BIV – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet, called the visible light spectrum that creates a rainbow of colors. One one end of the spectrum is red, and at opposite ends of the spectrum is violet. This is also called diffraction. The word spectrum can also be used more generally to describe a range of particular things. The spectrum can also refer to disorders that encompass autism or related ideas like Asperger’s syndrome. This is known as autism spectrum disorder which has various symptoms and behaviors that are associated with it. This is also known as ASD, which is a visible spectrum of development disorders. There are a specific set of values and behaviors set by the CDC that diagnose this pervasive developmental disorder like a lack of eye contact, individual features, or repetitive patterns of behaviors. This is usually diagnosed in childhood based on certain risk factors by psychiatrists that do an evaluation or medical test. 

Spectrum can also refer to a range of light waves or radio waves at particular frequencies, the particular distribution of electromagnetic radiation, the range of electromagnetic radiation with respect to wavelength or frequency, and a distribution of electromagnetic radiation that is  often showing lines or bands that are characteristic of the substance that is emitting the radiation or absorbing it. Spectrum is two syllables – spec-trum, and the pronunciation of spectrum is ˈspɛktrəm. 

Many things can be a spectrum, like a spectrum of political beliefs, a spectrum of moods, the absorption spectrum, a band spectrum, the atomic spectrum, the entire electromagnetic spectrum, the spectrum of radiation,  a continuous series of colors, the mass of specific kinds of particles on the mass spectrum, the magnitudes of a common physical property, the dispersion of radiant energy, or any array of entities or broad range of related objects. Multiple spectrums are called the plural spectra. In mathematics and linear algebra, a spectrum is the set of eigenvalues of a matrix. In chemistry, it refers to the pattern of absorption and or emission of radiation that is produced by a substance when subjected to energy such as radiation, heat, or electricity. It can also refer to the emission spectrum or any similar distribution or record of certain energies, velocities, masses and such of atoms, ions, or electrons.

There are many different languages that also contain words meaning spectrum. You may notice that many of these words look similar to spectrum, and are pronounced similarly as well. These are called cognates, which are words that preserve their meaning and general spelling across languages. These are often formed when two words or languages have the same root or language of origin such as Latin or Greek. This list of translations of spectrum is provided by Word Sense

  •  Tagalog: balangaw‎
  •  Irish: speictream‎ (masc.)
  •  Chinese: 譜/谱, 譜間 (simplified 谱間, pǔjiān), 譜間 (simplified 谱間, pǔjiān)
  •  Romanian: spectru‎ (neut.)
  •  Russian: спектр‎ (masc.), диапазо́н‎ (masc.)
  •  Greek: φάσμα‎ (neut.)
  •  Japanese: スペクトル‎ (supekutoru)
  •  French: spectre‎ (masc.)
  •  Italian: spettro‎
  •  Persian: طیف‎ (teyf)
  •  Polish: spektrum‎ (neut.)
  •  Finnish: kirjo‎
  •  Portuguese: espectro‎ (masc.), espetro‎ (masc.)

What is the origin of the word spectrum?

According to Etymonline, the word spectrum 

What are synonyms and antonyms of spectrum?

There are many different words that one can use in place of the word spectrum (kənˈkɜːr). These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are a useful tool to know in the English language because they can help people to avoid repeating themselves while simultaneously growing their vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word spectrum is provided by Power Thesaurus

  •  extensity
  •  order
  •  purview
  •  scale
  •  scope
  •  gradation
  •  specter
  •  register
  •  succession
  •  ladder
  •  paint
  •  animal kingdom
  •  file
  •  variegation
  •  bandwidth
  •  calibration
  •  reach
  •  gradations
  •  compass
  •  exchequer
  •  gamut
  •  queue
  •  catenation
  •  frequency
  •  board
  •  spectra
  •  bow
  •  chain
  •  arena
  •  spread
  •  tortoise shell
  •  chain reaction
  •  range
  •  shade
  •  frequency spectrum
  •  prism
  •  carry
  •  spectre
  •  hierarchy
  •  color
  •  rainbow
  •  butterfly
  •  sweep
  •  extent
  •  diapasons
  •  carrier frequency
  •  space
  •  continuum
  •  breadth
  •  sequence
  •  ancestry
  •  buzz
  •  color spectrum
  •  domain
  •  apparition
  •  orbit
  •  diapason
  •  bogey
  •  catena
  •  audio frequency
  •  line
  •  ambit
  •  field
  •  extremely high frequency
  •  chain of command
  •  scales
  •  run of
  •  width
  •  area
  •  span
  •  colors
  •  rank
  •  mackerel sky
  •  bandwith
  •  widths
  •  chain of being
  •  variety
  •  chromatic spectrum
  •  pecking order
  •  afterimage
  •  row
  •  sweeps
  •  hue cycle
  •  antigorite
  •  spreads
  •  swath
  •  progression
  •  bank
  •  series
  •  revenant
  •  ranking
  •  articulation
  •  iris
  •  dye
  •  routine
  •  array
  •  radio frequency
  •  chameleon
  •  run
  •  spectral

The word spectrum also has a number of antonyms, or opposite words. These words have the opposite definition as the word spectrum. Learning antonyms is another quick and easy way to expand your English language vocabulary. This list of antonyms of spectrum is also provided by Power Thesaurus

  •  unrivaled
  •  unit
  •  either
  •  one and only
  •  particular
  •  separate
  •  one
  •  selfsame
  •  by himself
  •  that
  •  unified
  •  nonpareil
  •  anyone
  •  solitary
  •  matchless
  •  unitary
  •  this
  •  different
  •  any
  •  singleton
  •  lone
  •  person
  •  someone
  •  ace
  •  only
  •  by oneself
  •  unique
  •  any one
  •  anybody
  •  sole
  •  exclusive
  •  united
  •  human being
  •  alone
  •  any person
  •  special
  •  each
  •  individual
  •  uncommon
  •  unmatched
  •  monad
  •  somebody
  •  some
  •  single
  •  whole
  •  singular
  •  any of
  •  whole world
  •  uno
  •  few
  •  peerless

Overall, the word spectrum means  a range. This can be used in various industries. It can be used to refer to the phenomenon of a band of colors formed when ordinary light rays pass through  a prism. It can also be used more generally to refer to a range such as the opposite ends of the political spectrum in accordance.


  1. spectrum: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. Spectrum synonyms – 392 Words and Phrases for Spectrum | Power Thesaurus 
  3. Spectrum antonyms – 26 Opposites of Spectrum | Power Thesaurus 
  4. Spectrum definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary 
  5. Spectrum Meaning | Best 18 Definitions of Spectrum | Your Dictionary