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What's the difference between transparent and translucent? I am trying to describe this record pressing.

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There's some discussion of the difference between transparent and translucent in this answer, but it isn't conclusive – Ellie Kesselman Feb 1 '12 at 16:14
remark that transparent can be used more abstractly (as in, "a transparent idea"), but it would be more awkward to do the same with translucent. – thang Jan 22 '13 at 4:33

4 Answers 4

up vote 18 down vote accepted

These are both Latin words, and the etymologies help here.

  • trans simply means through
  • lūceō simply means to shine

So translucent means 'shining through' -- i.e, light passes through, though nothing is said about an image.

  • pāreō means to look, seem or appear; to think (of); to sound (like)

So transparent clearly refers to identifiable images, most likely visual (hence implying light), but also any sensory percept involving a mental image, as in a transparent lie.

Since transparent usually entails light passing through a substance, translucent has become specialized in its sense to entail light passing, but no image.

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Generally transparent means light goes through undisturbed and so makes an image, while translucent allows light through but not an image (e.g. frosted glass).

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+1 for short answer with example. – user14070 Feb 2 '12 at 4:19

Something that is transparent lets all light through without distorting the image -- it is as if the transparent object were not even there, visually speaking. Something that is translucent lets some but not all light through. Something that is opaque lets no light through.

Something that is translucent could be anywhere between transparent and opaque; that's a pretty broad range.

Possibly more than you wanted to know on the subject can be found at Wikipedia.

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To make it easier to differentiate, translucent = semi transparent.

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