phenomenon

noun phe·nom·e·non \ fi-ˈnä-mə-ˌnän , -nən \
Updated on: 11 Dec 2017

Definition of phenomenon

plural phenomena play \fi-ˈnä-mə-nə, -ˌnä\ or phenomenons
1 plural phenomena : an observable fact or event
2 plural phenomena
a : an object or aspect known through the senses rather than by thought or intuition
b : a temporal or spatiotemporal object of sensory experience as distinguished from a noumenon
c : a fact or event of scientific interest susceptible to scientific description and explanation
3 a : a rare or significant fact or event
b plural phenomenons : an exceptional, unusual, or abnormal person, thing, or occurrence

Can phenomena be used as a singular?

Phenomena has been in occasional use as a singular since the early 18th century, as has the plural phenomenas. Our evidence shows that singular phenomena is primarily a speech form used by poets, critics, and professors, among others, but one that sometimes turns up in edited prose.
    • Although it seemed like a fad a few years ago, Twitter has evolved into a phenomena with more than 200 million users …
    • —Myron P. Medcalf
It is etymologically no more irregular than stamina and agenda, but it has nowhere near the frequency of use that they have, and while they are standard, phenomena is still rather borderline.


Examples of phenomenon in a Sentence

  1. For example, we talk more loudly in cars, because of a phenomenon known as the Lombard effect—the speaker involuntarily raises his voice to compensate for background noise. —John SeabrookNew Yorker23 June 2008
  2. This follow-the-winemaker phenomenon is a unique wrinkle in our wine culture. —James LaubeWine Spectator15 May 2008
  3. Contrary to the notion that war is a continuation of policy by other means …  , both Keegan and Mueller find that war is a cultural product rather than a phenomenon or law of nature and therefore subject, like other modes of human expression (the wearing of togas or powdered wigs, the keeping of slaves, the art of cave painting), to the falling out of fashion. —Lewis H. LaphamHarper'sSeptember 2007
  4. The days and nights of the Irish pub, smoky and dark and intimate, are giving way to another phenomenon: the superpub. These are immense places, loud with music; part honkytonk, part dance hall, some servicing as many as a thousand drinkers on several floors. —Pete HamillGourmetApril 2007
  5. They were ephemera and phenomena on the face of a contemporary scene. That is, there was really no place for them in the culture, in the economy, yet they were there, at that time, and everyone knew that they wouldn't last very long, which they didn't. —William Faulknerletter7 Mar. 1957
  6. natural phenomena like lightning and earthquakes

  7. the greatest literary phenomenon of the decade

  8. The movie eventually became a cultural phenomenon.

Recent Examples of phenomenon from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of phenomenon

Late Latin phaenomenon, from Greek phainomenon, from neuter of phainomenos, present participle of phainesthai to appear, middle voice of phainein to show — more at fancy


PHENOMENON Defined for English Language Learners

phenomenon

noun

Definition of phenomenon for English Language Learners

  • : something (such as an interesting fact or event) that can be observed and studied and that typically is unusual or difficult to understand or explain fully

  • : someone or something that is very impressive or popular especially because of an unusual ability or quality


PHENOMENON Defined for Kids

phenomenon

noun phe·nom·e·non \ fi-ˈnä-mə-ˌnän \

Definition of phenomenon for Students

plural phenomena \-nə\ or phenomenons
1 plural phenomena : an observable fact or event
2 : a rare or important fact or event
3 plural phenomenons : an extraordinary or exceptional person or thing

Medical Dictionary

phenomenon

noun phe·nom·e·non \ fi-ˈnäm-ə-ˌnän, -nən \

medical Definition of phenomenon

plural phenomena play \-nə, -ˌnä\
1 : an observable fact or event
2 a : an object or aspect known through the senses rather than by thought or intuition
b : a fact or event of scientific interest susceptible of scientific description and explanation


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