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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Opalescence \O`pal*es"cence\, n. (Min.) A reflection of a milky or pearly light from the interior of a mineral, as in the moonstone; the state or quality of being opalescent.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1792; see opalescent + -ence.


n. 1 the state of being opalescent 2 (context physics English) the milky iridescent appearance of a dense transparent medium when it is illuminated by polychromatic visible radiation (such as sunlight) due to local fluctuations in its density and therefore in its refractive index


n. the visual property of something having a milky brightness [syn: iridescence]


Opalescence is a type of dichroism seen in highly dispersed systems with little opacity. The material appears yellowish-red in transmitted light and blue in the scattered light perpendicular to the transmitted light. The phenomenon is named after the appearance of opals and is an example of the Tyndall effect.

There are different degrees of opalescent behaviour. One can still see through a slightly opalescent phase. The larger the particles are, the stronger the scattering arising from them and the cloudier the particular phase will look. At a certain concentration the scattering is so strong that all light passing through is scattered, so that it is no longer transparent.

Examples are the blue sky in the daytime and the yellowish-red sky at sunset. Another example can be made by adding a few droplets of milk to a glass of water. The liquid appears bluish. However, if one looks through the glass at a light source, it becomes yellowish-red. Opalescence is an effect exploited in lustreware pottery.

Usage examples of "opalescence".

The rays of the setting sun, breaking through the gap between hedge and ground, elicited a dazzling chromatic display of coruscation and opalescence on the surface of the watery spheres as though to make amends for the dingy gray of the hueless Martian twilight.

But this balance is disturbed in the presence of much nitre, the indications with baric chloride being disturbed by an opalescence for some c.

It was alive with swirling color, an intermingling of writhing, prismatic flames and subtle and everchanging shades of darkness, an eddying opalescence that seemed always about to coalesce into a picture, yet never did.

Now I could see clearly that nucleus, that core shot through with flashing veins of radiance, that ever-shifting shape of glory through the shroudings of shimmering, misty plumes, throbbing lacy opalescences, vaporous spirallings of prismatic phantom fires.

He gave me a seashell, pale, white, gleaming with opalescence like a daintier, pinker version of abalone shell.

Opalescence swirled like slow smoke in walls and ceilings, except for the fourth wall, which stood open on a balcony.

Tangled in the trees at the crest of the hill hung a pale lavender mist, shot through with opalescence.

By the strange pearled opalescence of her nails, the delicacy of her tiny, ice-pale fingers, no bigger than his own.

It was posited at the time that Heptite Guild members, protected by their symbiont, would be safe from the infection which had killed the original exploratory team exposed to the opalescence - "Fluid metal, Guild Master," Rudney said, "is a more accurate term for the material - FM for short.