There is a word for the optical shimmering effect that is caused by heat. It is particularly noticible when you are lying on the ground looking into the distance (the effect, not the word). It is a long word of the following structure: ------(t?)(a?)tion, (I don't know how many letters.)

The answer is not mirage. It is a similar phenomenon, but not exactly the same. Could anyone remind me what it is as I was taught this at school and have forgotten.

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    It is called a mirage, officially, but were you thinking of the more specific phenomenon fata morgana, perhaps? – Dan Bron Mar 22 '16 at 12:12
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    The phenomenon is caused by heat refraction. I don't know if that is the term you are remember. – bradimus Mar 22 '16 at 12:12
  • @bradimus Good call. – Captain Cranium Mar 22 '16 at 12:14
  • I agree that a mirage is an illusion caused by refraction and is shimmering. This word describes the shimmering that is caused by the refraction that is caused by the heat. It is the effect that a distant fence post would appear to wobble, or cows legs seem to move in an unsynchronised fashion. For me the word mirage describes an illusion of an object being there that is not, e.g., the water mirage: the water is somewhere else; refraction effects make it appear to be much closer. This word describes the effect of distortion on an object that is there. – RoDaSm Mar 22 '16 at 12:39
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    @RoDaSm The usual, primary use of 'mirage', an illusion, is a metaphorical usage coming from the literal meaning of the appearance of a shiny water like surface on the horizon caused by heat refraction. (this is just additional clarification built on what others have said). – Mitch Mar 22 '16 at 15:17

I would have said that the perfect term was mirage, ‘an optical effect that is sometimes seen at sea, in the desert, or over a hot pavement’, even though it does not fit your number-of-letters template.

  • I can't remember the exact number of letters. – RoDaSm Mar 22 '16 at 12:29

It is a long word of the following structure: ------(t?)(a?)tion, (I don't know how many letters.)

One word that fits your template is tremulation which means a shaking or trembling.

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