Meaning of critical angle

crit'ical an'gle

Pronunciation: [key]
  1. the minimum angle of incidence beyond which total internal reflection occurs for light traveling from a medium of higher to one of lower index of refraction; the angle of incidence for which refracted rays emerge tangent to the surface separating two media, the light traveling from the medium of higher to the medium of lower index of refraction.
  2. Also calledthe angle of attack, greater than or equal to the angle of attack for maximum lift, at which there is a sudden change in the airflow around an airfoil with a subsequent decrease in lift and increase in drag.
Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Copyright © 1997, by Random House, Inc., on Infoplease.