frame of reference

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Acronyms, Wikipedia.
Related to frame of reference: Inertial frame of reference

frame of reference

Geometry any set of planes or curves, such as the three coordinate axes, used to locate or measure movement of a point in space

Frame of reference

A base to which to refer physical events. A physical event occurs at a point in space and at an instant of time. Each reference frame must have an observer to record events, as well as a coordinate system for the purpose of assigning locations to each event. The latter is usually a three-dimensional space coordinate system and a set of standardized clocks to give the local time of each event. For a discussion of the geometrical properties of space-time coordinate systems See Space-time, Relativity

In the ordinary range of experience, where light signals, for all practical purposes, propagate instantaneously, the time of an event is quite distinct from its space coordinates, since a single clock suffices for all observers, regardless of their state of relative motion. The set of reference frames which have a common clock or time is called newtonian, since Isaac Newton regarded time as having invariable significance for all observers.

For discussion of other types of reference frames.

frame of reference

A rigid framework, such as the Earth, the celestial sphere, or a set of coordinate axes, relative to which position, motion, etc., in a system may be measured.

frame of reference

the basic assumptions delimiting the subject matter of any discipline or approach. For example, PARSONS and Shils (1951) state, ‘The frame of reference of the theory of action involves actors, a situation of action, and the orientation of the actor to that situation.’

Frame of Reference


in mechanics, the aggregate of a system of coordinates and clocks associated with a body, in reference to which the motion or equilibrium of any other mass points or bodies is being studied. Any motion is relative, and the motion of a body must be examined in relation to some other body—the reference body—or to a system of bodies. For example, it is not possible to describe the motion of the moon in a general way; it is only possible to determine the motion in relation to the earth or the sun and the stars or some other heavenly body.

Mathematically, the motion of a body or mass point in relation to a chosen frame of reference is described by equations. The equations state how the coordinates defining the position of the body or point in a frame of reference change with the passage of time t. For example, if the Cartesian coordinates x, y, z are used, the motion of a point is determined by the equations x = f1(t), y = f2(t), z = f3(t). These equations are called equations of motion (seeKINEMATICS).

The choice of a frame of reference depends on the purpose of the investigation. In kinematic investigations, all frames of reference are equally valid. In problems in dynamics, inertial reference frames are preferred, for which differential equations of motion usually assume a simpler form.


Khaikin, S. E. Fizicheskie osnovy mekhaniki. Moscow, 1963. Sections 7 and 16.
Aizerman, M. A. Klassicheskaia mekhanika. Moscow, 1974. Chapter 1, sec. 1; ch.2, sec.2.


frame of reference

[¦frām əv ′ref·rəns]
A coordinate system for the purpose of assigning positions and times to events. Also known as reference frame.
References in periodicals archive ?
From this point on, the formation of the US frame of reference that supported Zionism since the early phases of the century began steadily unfolding.
Another major contribution to this frame of reference is Torbert's (1991) The Power of Balance: Transforming Self Society, and Scientific Inquiry, focusing primarily on the individual within the organization.
Johnson, who admits to looking like a Buddha but dancing like a feather, is patient but firmly professional with his young charges and in dealing with parents who have little frame of reference for the arts but are attracted to the settlement's activity, discipline, and joyous atmosphere.
It is during this stage that individuals realize that the White frame of reference is inappropriate, and they fluctuate between clinging to this old identity and facing the challenge of developing a new identity.
High intensity forms of "dissonance" that stems from directly experiencing poverty for the first time--does not go away and remains with the student as a permanent fixture within his/her new cultural frame of reference.
Difficult ideas are illustrated by vivid instances--the true nature of perception revealed by its breakdown in cases of apraxia or aphasia, for example, or identity's ultimate reliance on a cosmic frame of reference demonstrated simply in the traditional orientation of a church.
Green's solution is to follow the example of his former Art Center instructor Liz Larner, whose work is characterized overall by the grafting of a specifically photographic frame of reference onto the dense materiality of the sculptural object.
1300]), thus offering a frame of reference for the (r)evolution in the approach of Latin grammar during modern times.
Every generation needs a new reprise of WW II, tailored to its own historical frame of reference and its own cultural values.
Documented plans provide a frame of reference for the investigation to ensure that all aspects of the crime are covered in a timely manner.
Seen as parts of an inseparable dyad, sickness and healing - the so-called SH complex - are placed within an evolutionary frame of reference and explained as essential aspects of genetic and cultural human adaptation.