• (British) IPA: /sfɪə/
  • (America) enPR: sfîr, IPA: /sfɪɹ/

sphere (plural spheres)

  1. (mathematics) A regular three-dimensional object in which every cross-section is a circle; the figure described by the revolution of a circle about its diameter [from 14th c.].
  2. A spherical physical object; a globe or ball. [from 14th c.]
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book VII”, in Paradise Lost. A Poem Written in Ten Books, London: Printed [by Samuel Simmons], and are to be sold by Peter Parker […] [a]nd by Robert Boulter […] [a]nd Matthias Walker, […], OCLC 228722708 ↗; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: The Text Exactly Reproduced from the First Edition of 1667: […], London: Basil Montagu Pickering […], 1873, OCLC 230729554 ↗:
      Of celestial bodies, first the sun, / A mighty sphere, he framed.
    • 2011, Piers Sellers, The Guardian, 6 July:
      So your orientation changes a little bit but it sinks in that the world is a sphere, and you're going around it, sometimes under it, sideways, or over it.
  3. (astronomy, now rare) The apparent outer limit of space; the edge of the heavens, imagined as a hollow globe within which celestial bodies appear to be embedded. [from 14th c.]
    • 1635, John Donne, "His parting form her":
      Though cold and darkness longer hang somewhere, / Yet Phoebus equally lights all the Sphere.
  4. (historical, astronomy, mythology) Any of the concentric hollow transparent globes formerly believed to rotate around the Earth, and which carried the heavenly bodies; there were originally believed to be eight, and later nine and ten; friction between them was thought to cause a harmonious sound (the music of the spheres). [from 14th c.]
    • 1603, Michel de Montaigne, John Florio, transl., The Essayes, […], printed at London: By Val[entine] Simmes for Edward Blount […], OCLC 946730821 ↗:
      , vol.1, p.153:
      It is more simplicitie to teach our children […] [t]he knowledge of the starres, and the motion of the eighth spheare, before their owne.
    • 1646, Thomas Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica, I.6:
      They understood not the motion of the eighth sphear from West to East, and so conceived the longitude of the Stars invariable.
  5. (mythology) An area of activity for a planet; or by extension, an area of influence for a god, hero etc. [from 14th c.]
  6. (figuratively) The region in which something or someone is active; one's province, domain. [from 17th c.]
    • 1946, Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy, I.20:
      They thought – originally on grounds derived from religion – that each thing or person had its or his proper sphere, to overstep which is ‘unjust’.
  7. (geometry) The set of all points in three-dimensional Euclidean space (or n-dimensional space, in topology) that are a fixed distance from a fixed point [from 20th c.].
  8. (logic) The extension of a general conception, or the totality of the individuals or species to which it may be applied.
Synonyms Related terms Translations Translations Translations Verb

sphere (spheres, present participle sphering; past and past participle sphered)

  1. (transitive) To place in a sphere, or among the spheres; to ensphere.
    • c. 1602, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Troylus and Cressida”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358 ↗, [Act I, scene iii]:
      The glorious planet Sol / In noble eminence enthroned and sphered / Amidst the other.
  2. (transitive) To make round or spherical; to perfect.

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