phan·​tas·​ma·​go·​ria (ˌ)fan-ˌtaz-mə-ˈgȯr-ē-ə How to pronounce phantasmagoria (audio)
: an exhibition of optical effects and illusions
: a constantly shifting complex succession of things seen or imagined
: a scene that constantly changes
: a bizarre or fantastic combination, collection, or assemblage
phantasmagoric adjective
or phantasmagorical

Examples of phantasmagoria in a Sentence

He saw a phantasmagoria of shadowy creatures through the fog.
Recent Examples on the Web Inside, the viewer is immersed in a jaw-dropping phantasmagoria. Alex Weprin, The Hollywood Reporter, 21 Sep. 2023 The result is a eye-popping phantasmagoria, with wild shapes shaded in rainbow filling the background, flowers adorning the bottom of the page, and small, intricate doodles covering Carlile’s body, bringing the whimsical style of Fewocious’ work to the pages of Billboard. Stephen Daw, Billboard, 2 June 2022 Rowe’s phantasmagoria returns this summer, haunting the Frost Amphitheater on the Stanford University campus. Celia Wren, Washington Post, 8 June 2023 Beau's stress levels fly off the charts when a trip to visit his mom turns into a nightmarish phantasmagoria. Clark Collis,, 29 Apr. 2023 The movie explores the weight of beliefs on one’s destiny through four characters accused of being witches and sorcerers, all of them intertwined and guiding each other into the phantasmagoria of Africa. Elsa Keslassy, Variety, 21 Apr. 2023 Joaquin Phoenix stars as Beau Wassermann, a middle-aged man struggling to make sense of himself and his relationship to his mother amid a phantasmagoria of experiences and memories. Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times, 14 Apr. 2023 The film's trailer, which shows Phoenix playing a character who travels through some sort of phantasmagoria while attempting to visit his mother, is more intriguing than illuminating, at least plot-wise, and not too much else is known about the project. Clark Collis,, 29 Mar. 2023 Younger rightists dodge the war-taint by blaming everything on a ghoulish cabal of neoconservatives whose Wilsonian phantasmagoria once held their party in thrall. David Harsanyi, National Review, 16 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'phantasmagoria.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from French phantasmogorie (later fantasmagorie) "theatrical show using magic lanterns in a darkened performance space to suggest supernatural phenomena," from fantasme phantasm + -ogorie, -agorie, of uncertain origin

Note: The French word was used by the magician Paul Phylidor (†1829, of uncertain nationality), apparently first in an announcement of a performance in the Parisian journal Affiches, annonces et avis divers for December 16, 1792. The performance is discussed slightly earlier under the heading "Phantasmogorie" in a letter by one "A.L.M.," in an issue of the Magasin encyclopédique for December 3, 1792 (pp. 17-19). The final element -agorie has been variously explained; perhaps the most plausible suggestion is that it was split off from allégorie allegory. In a handbill for a performance in Vienna in March, 1790, Phylidor uses the presumably plural form phantasmorasi: "… wird der Physikus Phylidor seine Darstellungen der sogenannten Phantasmorasi, oder natürlicher Geister Erscheinungen … einem hohen und unschätzbaren Publikum die Ehre haben zu zeigen" ("… the physician Phylidor will have the honor to exhibit his representations of the so-called Phantasmorasi, or natural spirit phenomena, to a high and inestimable public"). The relation of this earlier word to phantasmogorie is unclear. (The handbill is preserved in the Vienna City Library.)

First Known Use

circa 1802, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of phantasmagoria was circa 1802

Dictionary Entries Near phantasmagoria

Cite this Entry

“Phantasmagoria.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

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