Word of the Day: panoptic

2 CQ

Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 18, 2016 is:

panoptic • \pan-OP-tik\  • adjective

: being or presenting a comprehensive or panoramic view


The new security cameras installed in the jewelry store capture panoptic views of the entrance and display cases.

"Interweaving the narratives of an aristocratic uptown family, an underground punk band, a Long Island adolescent, a black gay aspiring writer, and a journalist determined to uncover the obscure connections between them all, the more-than-900-page novel … casts a panoptic  lens on 1970s New York City…." — Lauren Christensen, Vanity Fair , October 2015

Did you know?

The establishment of panoptic in the English language can be attributed to two inventions known as panopticons. The more well-known panopticon was conceived by the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham in 1787. Bentham’s panopticon was a circular prison with cells arranged around a central tower from which guards could see the inmates at all times. The other panopticon, also created in the 18th century, was a device containing pictures of attractions, such as European capitals, that people viewed through an opening. Considering the views that both inventions gave, it is not hard to see why panoptic (a word derived from Greek panoptēs , meaning "all-seeing") was being used by the early 19th century.

Aired August 18, 2016

All Merriam-Webster content is available at

  • Recommended Recommended
  • History & In Progress History
  • Browse Library
  • Most Popular Library

Get Personalized Recommendations

Let us help you figure out what to learn! By taking a short interview you’ll be able to specify your learning interests and goals, so we can recommend the perfect courses and lessons to try next.

Start Interview

You don't have any lessons in your history.
Just find something that looks interesting and start learning!

500 characters max