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In subjects like psychology, history, government, or sociology, the word facet usually refers to an aspect, part, or element of something larger. Among academic writers, in particular, facet is a popular word that allows the writer to group together individual characteristics and signal to the reader that one or more of those facets will be discussed (sentences 1-3).
In the context of gemstones, though, a facet is the flat surface of a geometric shape (sentence 4). In describing the body, facet most likely refers to a small, smooth, flat area on a bone or tooth (sentence 5).
Memory Peg. If you are trying to remember the meaning of facet, link it to the close-up image of a diamond with its different facets or surfaces. Of course, the various facets of a problem are not literally like the facets of a diamond. But each of them represents a particular side or aspect from which the problem can be viewed, much like each facet of a diamond may catch the light under a particular angle.
Specialized Use in Medicine. Facet Joints (also known as z-joints) separate the vertebrae of the spine and allow the spine to twist. The link between the term facet joints and ordinary uses of the word facets is the fact that, like a multi-faceted diamond, facet joints consist of several small, smooth areas. The resulting irregular surface allows them to fit neatly between the vertebrae of the spine.
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Last update of this page: March 22, 2014