phan·​tom | \ ˈfan-təm How to pronounce phantom (audio) \

Definition of phantom

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : something apparent to sense but with no substantial existence : apparition
b : something elusive or visionary
c : an object of continual dread or abhorrence the phantom of disease and want
2 : something existing in appearance only
3 : a representation of something abstract, ideal, or incorporeal she was a phantom of delight— William Wordsworth



Definition of phantom (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : of the nature of, suggesting, or being a phantom : illusory
2 : fictitious, dummy phantom voters

Other Words from phantom


phantomlike \ ˈfan-​təm-​ˌlīk How to pronounce phantom (audio) \ adverb or adjective

Examples of phantom in a Sentence

Noun The book is about the phantoms that are said to haunt the nation's cemeteries. The crisis is merely a phantom made up by the media. Adjective People claim to have seen a phantom ship floating on the lake. A number of ballots from phantom voters had to be thrown out.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But the problem of phantom braking is not limited to the controversial FSD mode. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, 18 Feb. 2022 Some drivers have reported phantom braking even when Autopilot is turned off. Mark Knapp, PCMAG, 2 Feb. 2022 For reporters, Mujahid was a kind of phantom, a disembodied voice on the phone. Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, 21 Feb. 2022 This isn’t the first time that NHTSA has looked into Tesla's phantom braking problem. Sebastian Blanco, Car and Driver, 19 Feb. 2022 Thursday’s investigation comes after Tesla recalled nearly 12,000 vehicles back in October for a similar phantom braking problem. Tom Krisher, ajc, 17 Feb. 2022 Thursday's investigation comes after Tesla recalled nearly 12,000 vehicles back in October for a similar phantom braking problem. CBS News, 17 Feb. 2022 In other words, an advisory opinion that would nonetheless be binding on the EPA. West Virginia v. EPA isn’t the only case on the court’s phantom docket these days. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 3 Mar. 2022 The Washington Post reported about a surge in phantom braking complaints from Tesla owners on Feb. 2. Tom Krisher, ajc, 17 Feb. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The maps on phantom AirTag alerts share a similar pattern: straight red lines radiating out from the user’s location. Dalvin Brown, WSJ, 6 May 2022 In Colorado, women have organized door-knocking campaigns to try to uncover phantom voters. Sara Murray And Jeff Simon, CNN, 18 Jan. 2022 They were met at the train stations by salesmen flogging lots in what were sometimes to be found in phantom towns that didn’t exist and never would. Los Angeles Times, 12 Apr. 2022 The material, as a matter of fact, proved to be the phantom thread running throughout. Olivia Hosken, Town & Country, 7 Apr. 2022 Observers warn that Macron’s phantom campaign could come back to haunt him. Time, 1 Apr. 2022 Mark-to-market taxes can create problems for people whose assets fall in value after Dec. 31, leaving them with a tax bill for phantom gains. Jason Furman, WSJ, 28 Mar. 2022 The experience of the phantom disc hit a nerve with journalists and the public who too often face what seem like ridiculous hurdles gaining access to government records to better understand what our government is doing. Jennifer Peebles, ajc, 18 Mar. 2022 The odious pandemic-era changes to the game are gone: the seven-inning game for doubleheaders, the phantom base-runners in extra innings. Dan Mclaughlin, National Review, 11 Mar. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of phantom


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for phantom


Middle English fantesme, fantosme, fantome, fantom "what only seems to have reality or value, vanity, illusion, apparition, falsehood," borrowed from Anglo-French fantosme, fantasme — more at phantasm

Note: For the etymological relation between this word and phantasm, see the note at the latter word. The spelling with initial ph- is a restoration from the Greek source.


Middle English fantom, from attributive use of fantosme, fantom phantom entry 1

Learn More About phantom

Time Traveler for phantom

Time Traveler

The first known use of phantom was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near phantom



phantom circuit

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Last Updated

17 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Phantom.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for phantom


phan·​tom | \ ˈfan-təm How to pronounce phantom (audio) \

Kids Definition of phantom

: an image or figure that can be sensed (as with the eyes or ears) but that is not real


variants: also fantom \ ˈfant-​əm How to pronounce phantom (audio) \

Medical Definition of phantom

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a model of the body or one of its parts
2 : a body of material resembling a body or bodily part in mass, composition, and dimensions and used to measure absorption of radiations


variants: also fantom

Medical Definition of phantom (Entry 2 of 2)

: not caused by an anatomical lesion phantom respiratory disorders

More from Merriam-Webster on phantom

Nglish: Translation of phantom for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of phantom for Arabic Speakers


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