phenomenon

noun
phe·​nom·​e·​non | \ fi-ˈnä-mə-ˌnän, -nən\
plural phenomena\ fi-​ˈnä-​mə-​nə , -​ˌnä \ or phenomenons

Definition of phenomenon

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
3a : a rare or significant fact or event
b plural phenomenons : an exceptional, unusual, or abnormal person, thing, or occurrence

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Can phenomena be used as a singular?: Usage Guide

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

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 Seabrook, New Yorker, 23 June 2008 This follow-the-winemaker phenomenon is a unique wrinkle in our wine culture. — James Laube, Wine Spectator, 15 May 2008 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. Lapham, Harper's, September 2007 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 Hamill, Gourmet, April 2007 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 Faulkner, letter, 7 Mar. 1957 natural phenomena like lightning and earthquakes the greatest literary phenomenon of the decade The movie eventually became a cultural phenomenon.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The phenomenon of giant waves breaking while still far out at sea has since become known as the Van Dorn effect and has been validated by later studies using advanced computer techniques. David Hambling, Popular Mechanics, "The Truth Behind Russia’s 'Apocalypse Torpedo'," 18 Jan. 2019 This column does not know if the American Psychological Association has rigorously analyzed the phenomenon of neighbor envy. James Freeman, WSJ, "The U.S. Economy and ‘Neighbor Envy’," 16 Jan. 2019 The same phenomenon, The Post found, can happen at the local level. John Woodrow Cox, The Seattle Times, "Numerous school lockdowns are traumatizing the nation’s children," 26 Dec. 2018 In the 1860s, Scottish mathematical physicist James Clerk Maxwell devised equations joining at the hip the phenomena of magnetism and electricity. Adam Hadhazy, Discover Magazine, "Scientists Hunt for A Seeming Paradox: A Magnet With Only One Pole," 13 Nov. 2018 Not surprisingly, the phenomenon proliferates in coastal areas, especially California. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "The number of ‘million-dollar neighborhoods’ in the U.S. has doubled," 9 Nov. 2018 The Smithsonian Scientific Center provides a much more logical explanation for the meteorological phenomenon. Eileen Reslen, Town & Country, "A Beautiful Rainbow Just Appeared Over St. George's Chapel Ahead of Princess Eugenie's Wedding," 12 Oct. 2018 From here, the fog phenomenon can seem like a living event. Tom Stienstra, SFChronicle.com, "’Tis the season for ‘Dancing with Fog’," 12 July 2018 The early morning phenomenon occurred twice in early December 2017 and January 2018. Renae Reints, Fortune, "This Is Your Last Chance to Experience Manhattanhenge in 2018," 12 July 2018

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.

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First Known Use of phenomenon

1605, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for 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

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Last Updated

22 Jan 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for phenomenon

The first known use of phenomenon was in 1605

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More Definitions for phenomenon

phenomenon

noun

English Language Learners Definition of phenomenon

: 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

noun
phe·​nom·​e·​non | \ fi-ˈnä-mə-ˌnän \
plural phenomena\ -​nə \ or phenomenons

Kids Definition of phenomenon

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

phenomenon

noun
phe·​nom·​e·​non | \ fi-ˈnäm-ə-ˌnän, -nən \
plural phenomena\ -​nə, -​ˌnä \

Medical Definition of phenomenon

1 : an observable fact or event
2a : 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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