phan·​tasm | \ ˈfan-ˌta-zəm How to pronounce phantasm (audio) \
variants: or less commonly

Definition of phantasm

1 : a product of fantasy: such as
a : delusive appearance : illusion
b : ghost, specter
c : a figment of the imagination
2 : a mental representation of a real object

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Other Words from phantasm

phantasmal \ fan-​ˈtaz-​məl How to pronounce phantasm (audio) \ adjective
phantasmic \ fan-​ˈtaz-​mik How to pronounce phantasm (audio) \ adjective

Did You Know?

The root "phan" comes from Greek verbs that mean "to appear or seem" or "to present to the mind." Does "phan" bring to your mind any other English words, in addition to "phantasm"? Indeed, this root appears in several English words that have to do with the way things seem or appear rather than the way they really are. Phantasmagoria and diaphanous are examples. Also from this root are words such as "fanciful" and "fantasy," in which the imagination plays an important part.

Examples of phantasm in a Sentence

frightened by the phantasms of his own making believed that she'd seen the phantasm of her father on the anniversary of his death
Recent Examples on the Web Southern lawmakers baselessly claimed Black men were lynched for raping White women -- a phantasm that still haunts Black men -- and asserted laws governing lynchings were best left to the states. Eliott C. Mclaughlin, CNN, 27 May 2021 The album, produced by pop artisan Greg Kurstin (Adele, Paul McCartney), is a conceptual rumination on these apocalyptic times, from war to salvation with a sprinkle of biblical phantasm. Steven J. Horowitz,, 15 Apr. 2021 That the nocturnal ritual fantasy is no fantasy, that every phantasm is a sign. Talia Lavin, The New Republic, 29 Sep. 2020 Nor did this phantasm express itself solely in writing. Ryan Ruby, The New York Review of Books, 8 Aug. 2020 His drawing shows an electric-blue phantasm on the wing, more like an angel or a pegasus than any earthly being. J. B. Mackinnon, The Atlantic, 19 Mar. 2020 These phantasms could influence familiar particles in several ways, according to Johns Hopkins University theorist and MAGIS collaborator Surjeet Rajendran. Charlie Wood, Scientific American, 18 Jan. 2020 Gottlieb’s story offers a fleeting glimpse into a world that is usually no more than a phantasm or a hideous dream., 14 Sep. 2019 The rest are freaks and phantasms, the lone exception being Callie Hernandez as the millionaire’s daughter, who manages to seem wise and lost and sad before vanishing from the action. Ty Burr,, 3 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'phantasm.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of phantasm

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for phantasm

Middle English fantesme, fantosme, fantome, fantom "what has only a seeming reality or value, vanity, illusion, apparition, falsehood," borrowed from Anglo-French fantosme, fantasme, fantesme, fantame (continental Old French fantosme), borrowed from Latin phantasma "ghost, apparition" (Late Latin also, "mental image, figment, illusion"), borrowed from Greek phántasma "apparition, ghost, vision, dream, (in plural) phenomena, portents," derivative, with the noun suffix -mat-, -ma, corresponding to phantázein "to make visible, present to the eye or mind, (middle voice) place before one's mind, picture to oneself, imagine" — more at fantasy entry 1

Note: The Middle English word bifurcated into two phonetically distinct words in early Modern English, phantasm, which has mostly restored the form of the Latin etymon, and phantom entry 1, which more directly continues the Middle English original. According to a hypothesis in the Französisches etymologisches Wörterbuch, the -o- in the medieval French forms reflects *fantauma, from a presumed Ionian variant *phántagma of Greek phántasma that would have penetrated Gallo-Romance through contact with Greek speakers in Massilia (ancient Marseille). The -s- in fantosme, fantasme, etc., is an etymological restoration, as [s] would have been lost in such clusters in later medieval French.

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Time Traveler for phantasm

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The first known use of phantasm was in the 13th century

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Last Updated

6 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Phantasm.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 12 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for phantasm



English Language Learners Definition of phantasm

literary : something that exists only in a person's mind


phan·​tasm | \ ˈfan-ˌtaz-əm How to pronounce phantasm (audio) \

Medical Definition of phantasm

1 : a figment of the imagination or disordered mind
2 : an apparition of a living or dead person

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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for phantasm


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