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 ?
The ability to locate the object when the frame of reference intrinsic to the model is consistent with those based on the room and the body position (Experiment 1) is present at age 6 and could depend on the dorsal visual stream and the posterior parietal cortex (Milner & Goodale, 1995), which reaches the adult volume earlier than the hippocampus (Lenroot & Giedd, 2006).
Avi Shlaim, Ilan Pappe and Benny Morris), who presented fresh studies recognizing the Palestinian tragedy has not been quite sufficient to revise the old frame of reference on Palestine.
Their frame of reference is external to their peer group, which largely cannot discern if the innovators are ingenious or crazy or both.
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.
We define a suggested frame of reference in product design, or product framing, as the design and/or description of a product to influence consumers to evoke comparative evaluations about the product relative to a buyer-familiar point or image of reference.
That is an important lesson in life-saving, job-creating, and dollar-saving regulation that might give you the frame of reference to solve these avoidable forms of violence and to be proud years later that you did just that.
On the other hand, the frame of reference may seem limited to those readers who would see in the title an opportunity for comparative analysis across cultures.
The relation between the individual's frame of reference and action and the impact of this action on organizational action is only discussed superficially.
We now are forced to get in touch with an internal frame of reference.
Yet far greater than these differences and objections is the common moral and spiritual frame of reference I share with Christians, including fundamentalists.