Iridescence in soap bubbles
A female Golden Stag Beetle has a highly iridescent shell
The iridescence of the Morpho didius butterfly wings
A peacock's tail feathers are iridescent.

Iridescence (also known as goniochromism) is generally known as the property of certain surfaces which appear to change color as the angle of view or the angle of illumination changes. Iridescence is commonly seen in items such as soap bubbles, butterfly wings, and sea shells.



Iridescence is an optical phenomenon of surfaces in which hue changes in correspondence with the angle from which a surface is viewed.

Iridescence is often caused by multiple reflections from two or more semi-transparent surfaces in which phase shift and interference of the reflections modulates the incidental light (by amplifying or attenuating some frequencies more than others). This process, termed thin-film interference, is the functional analog of selective wavelength attenuation as seen with the Fabry–Pérot interferometer.


The word iridescence is derived in part from the Greek word ἶρις îris (gen. ἴριδος íridos), meaning rainbow, which in turn derives from the goddess Iris of Greek mythology, who is the personification of the rainbow and acted as a messenger of the gods. Goniochromism is derived from the Greek words gonia, which means angle, and chroma, which means color.


See also

External links

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(like those of the rainbow)

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Iridescence — Ir i*des cence, n. [See {Iridescent}.] Exhibition of colors like those of the rainbow, especially a surface reflection which changes color with the angle at which the object is viewed; the quality or state of being iridescent; a prismatic play of …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • iridescence — [iʀidesɑ̃s] n. f. ÉTYM. 1924, in D. D. L.; de iridescent. ❖ ♦ Littér. Caractère de ce qui est iridescent …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • iridescence — 1804, from IRRIDESCENT (Cf. irridescent) + ENCE (Cf. ence). Related: Irridescency (1799) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Iridescence — On parle de goniochromisme quand une surface paraît changer de couleur selon l angle sous lequel on la regarde ou selon l angle selon lequel elle est éclairée. Lorsque les couleurs sont celles de l iris, il s agit de l irisation. L iridescence… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • iridescence — /ir i des euhns/, n. iridescent quality; a play of lustrous, changing colors. [1795 1805; IRID + ESCENCE] * * *       interference of light either at the surface or in the interior of a material that produces a series of colours as the angle of… …   Universalium

  • iridescence — noun Date: 1804 1. a lustrous rainbowlike play of color caused by differential refraction of light waves (as from an oil slick, soap bubble, or fish scales) that tends to change as the angle of view changes 2. a lustrous or attractive quality or… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • iridescence — iridescent ► ADJECTIVE ▪ showing luminous colours that seem to change when seen from different angles. DERIVATIVES iridescence noun iridescently adverb. ORIGIN from Latin iris rainbow …   English terms dictionary

  • iridescence — n. [L. iris, rainbow] A rainbow like display of interference colors that change with variations of the angle of view, due to diffraction of light reflected from ribbed or finely striated surfaces; iridescent adj …   Dictionary of invertebrate zoology

  • iridescence — noun a) The condition or state of being iridescent; exhibition of colors like those of the rainbow; a prismatic play of color. b) Any shimmer of glittering and changeable colors …   Wiktionary

  • iridescence — iri·des·cence (ir″ĭ desґəns) [L. iridescere to gleam like a rainbow] the condition of gleaming with bright and changing colors …   Medical dictionary

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