phantom

1 of 2

noun

phan·​tom ˈfan-təm How to pronounce phantom (audio)
1
a
: 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 delightWilliam Wordsworth
phantomlike adverb or adjective

phantom

2 of 2

adjective

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

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
Some of those phantoms are esoteric and others made literal and embodied on-screen. Ben Croll, Variety, 3 Dec. 2023 Sleep is known only by name, like a myth, like a phantom. Penny Hueston, Harper's Magazine, 16 Aug. 2023 Morgan told Variety the apparitions are not phantoms, however. K.j. Yossman, Variety, 16 Nov. 2023 Even after this iconic piece of Tennessee real estate has become her home, Priscilla slinks through its rooms like a stranger, as quiet and unnoticed as a phantom. Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times, 27 Oct. 2023 His wife, Ginger, compared the gathering to the story of Pandora’s box from Greek mythology, releasing all manner of phantoms. Ellen Barry Hilary Swift, New York Times, 7 Sep. 2023 Foremost among those phantoms: Josh Groban’s Sweeney, who glints but does not gleam in the darkness. Vulture, 26 Mar. 2023 Torn between her repulsion and attraction to the phantom, Christine will have to take control over her own destiny as a woman and as an artist. Elsa Keslassy, Variety, 6 Sep. 2023 Defenders fare better chasing phantoms than trying to catch the elusive Clay-Chalkville quarterback, AL.com’s No. 2 A-List senior prospect. Dennis Victory, al, 22 Aug. 2023
Adjective
Businesses also place phantom job ads to build a pipeline of candidates for the future, with no plan to hire currently. Jack Kelly, Forbes, 13 Feb. 2024 The conductive pad, located somewhere on the limb that can induce the feeling of phantom heat, is either heated or cooled to match the temperature measured at the fingertip. IEEE Spectrum, 9 Feb. 2024 Now artificial intelligence has breached my domestic fantasy, reshaping my desires to fit inside its phantom walls. Amanda Hess, New York Times, 4 Feb. 2024 His testimony during his former wife Marilyn Mosby’s mortgage fraud trial Monday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, and allegations of phantom charitable donations, raise too many questions to be ignored. Baltimore Sun Editorial Board, Baltimore Sun, 30 Jan. 2024 Haley said she was confounded by the right wing’s latest phantom menace. Gil Kaufman, Billboard, 2 Feb. 2024 As if the computer is operated by a phantom user, videos about Mavis Beacon start to play in quick succession. Lovia Gyarkye, The Hollywood Reporter, 23 Jan. 2024 Farmers, meanwhile, were frantic as the basin’s phantom lake reemerged for the first time in 25 years and floodwaters surged onto croplands that had not flooded in modern times. Susanne Rust, Los Angeles Times, 27 Dec. 2023 Electrical stimulation may help amputees with balance and phantom pain, early study suggests Like other people after amputation, Lauren Gavron needed oxycodone to dull the pain from her missing lower left leg. Elizabeth Cooney, STAT, 15 Dec. 2023 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Noun

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.

Adjective

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

First Known Use

Noun

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

Adjective

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near phantom

Cite this Entry

“Phantom.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/phantom. Accessed 28 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

phantom

1 of 2 noun
phan·​tom ˈfant-əm How to pronounce phantom (audio)
: something (as a ghost) that seems to be there but is not real : apparition

phantom

2 of 2 adjective
1
: suggesting or being a phantom
2
: existing in name only : not real : fictitious
phantom voters

Medical Definition

phantom

1 of 2 noun
phan·​tom
variants also fantom
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

phantom

2 of 2 adjective
variants also fantom
: not caused by an anatomical lesion
phantom respiratory disorders

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