phenomenon

noun
phe·​nom·​e·​non | \ fi-ˈnä-mə-ˌnän How to pronounce phenomenon (audio) , -nən \
plural phenomena\ fi-​ˈnä-​mə-​nə How to pronounce phenomena (audio) , -​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 But Franklin had yet to find a practical application for this exciting new phenomenon, which irked him greatly. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "That time Benjamin Franklin tried (and failed) to electrocute a turkey," 28 Nov. 2019 The grim phenomenon, which campaigners call féminicide, has long been under-reported and poorly handled in France. The Economist, "Big demonstrations in Paris over the murder of women," 28 Nov. 2019 Biologist Vanessa Bézy has been studying this remarkable phenomenon, known as a mass arrival, or arribada in Spanish, for years. Douglas Main, National Geographic, "This could be the biggest sea turtle swarm ever filmed," 26 Nov. 2019 These include smartphone addiction and a closely related phenomenon: internet addiction. Victor Odundo Owuor, Quartz Africa, "The uncomfortable link between smartphones and the rise in gambling with Africa’s youth," 24 Nov. 2019 The randomness, like the randomness of a pair of dice and all other random phenomena, are caused by our ignorance. Quanta Magazine, "Solution: ‘Randomness From Determinism’," 22 Nov. 2019 The main problem is habitat loss, along with a related phenomenon, human-elephant conflict. Paul Kvinta, Outside Online, "I Bought an Elephant to Find Out How to Save Them," 12 Nov. 2019 Mobile carriers offered unhelpful explanations for the weird-text phenomenon, which appeared to be widespread, at least according to social media. BostonGlobe.com, "Lots of people got weird texts the other night and no one can say why - The Boston Globe," 8 Nov. 2019 The phenomenon, known as Black Friday creep, also refers to how many retailers now launch their actual Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving Day. Kavita Kumar, chicagotribune.com, "With later Thanksgiving, Target will hold Black Friday preview sale this Friday and Saturday," 7 Nov. 2019

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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Time Traveler for phenomenon

Time Traveler

The first known use of phenomenon was in 1605

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Statistics for phenomenon

Last Updated

10 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Phenomenon.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/phenomenon. Accessed 10 December 2019.

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More Definitions for phenomenon

phenomenon

noun
How to pronounce phenomenon (audio)

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 How to pronounce phenomenon (audio) \
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 How to pronounce phenomenon (audio) \
plural phenomena\ -​nə, -​ˌnä How to pronounce phenomena (audio) \

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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Comments on phenomenon

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