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 phenomenon (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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Three months later, in February 2012, Lin averaged 26.8 points and 8.5 assists in six games — all wins — with the Knicks to become an international phenomenon. Connor Letourneau, SFChronicle.com, "Jeremy Lin to join Santa Cruz Warriors in hopes of resuscitating NBA career," 7 Jan. 2021 Covid-19 cases in New York have seen a recent spike -- a phenomenon experts predicted would occur after the holidays. Leah Asmelash And Ganesh Setty, CNN, "A Covid-19 outbreak that tore through a New York convent infected 47 sisters and killed 9," 5 Jan. 2021 The company also can’t rule out that the possibility that the vaccine makes the disease worse instead of protecting from it, a rare phenomenon seen with a few other vaccines. Priyanka Pulla, Science | AAAS, "Scientists criticize ‘rushed’ approval of Indian COVID-19 vaccine without efficacy data," 5 Jan. 2021 QAnon, once a fringe phenomenon, is now exploding online, a symptom of how susceptible America is to a conspiracy theory -- supercharged by the power of social media. NBC News, "Meet the Press - January 3, 2021," 3 Jan. 2021 This Japanese indie is a great example of a true word-of-mouth phenomenon, a movie made for almost nothing (reportedly as little as $25,000) that has made over $30 million worldwide, largely through recommendations. Brian Tallerico, Vulture, "The 50 Best Horror Movies on Shudder," 2 Jan. 2021 In April, the Pentagon, for the first time, released three Navy videos that showed unidentified aerial phenomenon. Dave Lieber, Dallas News, "If aliens arrive and study our consumer culture, they’d see a troubled society swamped in scams," 30 Dec. 2020 Researchers have observed that phenomenon in the aftermath of other crises; stressful times can both end and promote relationships. Jamie Ducharme, Time, "Why the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Caused a Widespread Existential Crisis," 29 Dec. 2020 The system transitions by passing through a mixture of the excited state and ground state, a quantum phenomenon known as superposition. Eleni Petrakou, Scientific American, "New Views of Quantum Jumps Challenge Core Tenets of Physics," 29 Dec. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about phenomenon

Time Traveler for phenomenon

Time Traveler

The first known use of phenomenon was in 1605

See more words from the same year

Statistics for phenomenon

Last Updated

14 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Phenomenon.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/phenomenon. Accessed 20 Jan. 2021.

Keep scrolling for more

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 phenomenon (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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on phenomenon

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

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Words of Snow and Ice Quiz

  • image1037863653
  • Which of the following refers to thin, bending ice, or to the act of running over such ice?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Typeshift

Anagram puzzles meet word search.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!