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

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Other Words from phantom


phantomlike \ ˈfan-​təm-​ˌlīk How to pronounce phantomlike (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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Like his foil Rey, Supreme Leader of the First Order Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is haunted by visions and phantoms, and Abrams constantly teases us with feints about his loyalty. John Wenzel, The Know, "Review: “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” sticks the landing, for the most part," 18 Dec. 2019 In Mexico’s big cities, drug cartel gunmen normally act like phantoms. Ioan Grillo, Time, "How The Sinaloa Cartel Bested The Mexican Army," 18 Oct. 2019 Through one phantom tackle and past a few others Edwards-Helaire dashed into the end zone. Michael Casagrande |, al, "The missed-tackle issue haunted Alabama’s loss to LSU," 12 Nov. 2019 But does that make the midlife crisis real, or just an intuitively appealing phantom? Nick Haslam, CNN, "Why the 'midlife crisis' is a myth," 14 Oct. 2019 With these sets, kids can venture out on ghost patrol—searching for clues, capturing menacing phantoms, and helping a team of ghost hunters solve mysteries. Time For Kids, Time, "The Best Toys of 2019," 22 Nov. 2019 The pursuit of this phantom leads him to Girl (Wonjung Kim), who appears out of nowhere and seems to be a perfect match, romantically and musically. Los Angeles Times, "Review: Korean family drama ‘Hannah and the Dread Gazebo’ casts too many spells," 19 Aug. 2019 Scooby and the gang stumble upon a menacing phantom at an off-road racing competition. Los Angeles Times, "Movies on TV this week Sept. 15, 2019: ‘Alien,’ ‘Aliens’ and more," 13 Sep. 2019 The absent figure in the triangle is always there as an obstructive phantom, so that no interactions are unconditionally between two people. Ben Brantley, New York Times, "Review: Tom Hiddleston in a Love Triangle Undone by ‘Betrayal’," 5 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The mind's phantom menaces Vader isn’t the only Star Wars villain to fall under the microscope. Michael Greshko, National Geographic, "The real science inspired by 'Star Wars'," 1 Dec. 2019 Patrons have reported hearing footsteps in storage areas and pool balls clacking together on phantom billiards tables. Steven Martinez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "You might see a ghost at these 7 haunted sites in the Milwaukee suburbs," 23 Oct. 2019 For every ache and twinge, real or phantom, my mind starts looping the phrase Don’t hurt your knee, like a scratch in a record. Christine Yu, Outside Online, "Your Fear of Reinjury Could Get You Hurt Again," 11 Nov. 2019 Frey joked—the phantom bells ring again, with distant thumps of timpani underneath. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "The Otherworldly Minimalism of Jürg Frey," 29 Oct. 2019 But the outcome was marred by not one but two phantom hands-to-the-face calls on Lions defensive end Trey Flowers in the fourth quarter, both prolonging Packers scoring drives., "Booger McFarland tells it like it is on ‘Monday Night Football’ - The Boston Globe," 20 Oct. 2019 In the debut trailer for this international actioner, Ryan Reynolds stars as a ghost… as in, someone who faked his own death, scrubbed his record, and now moves about as a phantom operative. Nick Romano,, "Ryan Reynolds goes fast and furious in Michael Bay's 6 Underground trailer," 1 Oct. 2019 Photographers love the building and capture images of its fading, phantom-like sign in this neighborhood that seems to be disappearing before your eyes. Jacques Kelly,, "Abandoned carriage shop carries a ghostly reminder of Baltimore’s past," 21 Sep. 2019 The phantom pain over that vanished greatness still haunts Russia’s collective consciousness. Yaroslav Trofimov, WSJ, "Russia’s Turn to Its Asian Past," 6 July 2018

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.

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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 fantosme, fantome, from Anglo-French fantosme phantasm

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Time Traveler for phantom

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for phantom

Last Updated

9 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Phantom.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 19 January 2020.

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More Definitions for phantom


How to pronounce phantom (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of phantom

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the soul of a dead person thought of as living in an unseen world or as appearing to living people
: something that is not real and exists only in a person's mind
: something that is hard to see or achieve



English Language Learners Definition of phantom (Entry 2 of 2)

: coming from or associated with the world of ghosts
: not real or true or not based on something real or true
: not real but felt or experienced as something real


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 fantom (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

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More from Merriam-Webster on phantom

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for phantom

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with phantom

Spanish Central: Translation of phantom

Nglish: Translation of phantom for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of phantom for Arabic Speakers

Comments on phantom

What made you want to look up phantom? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to insert between existing elements

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