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A hypothetical prison proposed by Jeremy Bentham, having circular tiers of cells surrounding a central observation tower.

[Earlier, a peepshow device used to exhibit pictures : pan- + Greek optikon, neuter of optikos, optic; see optic.]


1. a round prison in which all cells are visible from the centre point
2. archaic an optical instrument enabling wide views of cities
3. archaic an exhibition room


(pænˈɒp tɪˌkɒn)

a building, as a prison or library, so arranged that all parts of the interior are visible from a single point.
[1760–70; pan- + Greek optikón sight, seeing (neuter of optikós; see optic)]
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.panopticon - an area where everything is visible
area - a part of a structure having some specific characteristic or function; "the spacious cooking area provided plenty of room for servants"
saleroom, salesroom, showroom - an area where merchandise (such as cars) can be displayed; "in Britain a showroom is called a salesroom"
2.panopticon - a circular prison with cells distributed around a central surveillance station; proposed by Jeremy Bentham in 1791
prison, prison house - a correctional institution where persons are confined while on trial or for punishment