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 film’s fourth iteration is fast becoming a cultural phenomenon, earning Oscar buzz and praise from stars like Sean Penn, Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian, and Cher. Nick Williams, Harper's BAZAAR, "A Star Is Born," 30 Oct. 2018 The Friant-Kern has been crippled by a phenomenon known as subsidence. Dale Kasler And Phillip Reese, sacbee, "The Valley floor is sinking, and it’s crippling California’s ability to deliver water," 13 July 2018 These extremely energetic particles have been detected raining down from space since 1912, but researchers could not figure out what phenomenon could produce particles moving at such high speeds. Sarah Kaplan, chicagotribune.com, "In a cosmic first, scientists detect 'ghost particles' from a distant galaxy," 12 July 2018 In the spring, beekeepers are finding a large percentage of hives abandoned, full of food but devoid of workers, a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder. Kevin Davenport, idahostatesman, "Why are these 250,000 bees hanging out on this sweet Downtown Boise rooftop?," 11 July 2018 Here’s how Jeremy Liew, the first major institutional investor in Snap — who keeps a close eye on phenomena among high schoolers — sees the business: As a social network. Theodore Schleifer, Recode, "What’s so wrong with Silicon Valley investing in sin?," 9 July 2018 Many people buy such insurance in anticipation of an El Nino, a periodic weather phenomenon that can produce unusually wet winters. sandiegouniontribune.com, "How to negotiate insurance before disaster strikes," 8 July 2018 No one would have predicted such a phenomenon as recently as the beginning of this decade. Richard Rubin, kansascity, "The New York Times came to KC and fell in love with the streetcar," 6 July 2018 Sometimes, in a phenomenon known as a large local reaction, the redness and swelling can be a few inches in size. Dipesh Navsaria, Houston Chronicle, "What parents should know to prevent — and deal with — bug bites," 6 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

12 Nov 2018

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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