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 Although pet ownership is a relatively new phenomenon in China, there are an estimated 150 million pets across the country today, according to local media, with dogs most popular. Time, "'They Are Overwhelmed.' China's Animal Shelters Can't Cope With the Number of Pets Abandoned Due to COVID-19," 2 Mar. 2020 The fusing of Christian doctrine with political power in the name of morality and social justice is not a new phenomenon in our century. Clare Booth Luce, National Review, "The Light at the End of the Tunnel of Love: Jimmy Carter’s Christian Socialism," 13 Feb. 2020 These stabilizers help to counteract some phenomena in high-speed flight and when the plane turns. Caroline Delbert, Popular Mechanics, "Will We One Day Fly in This 'Blended Wing' Airplane? Airbus Built a Prototype To Find Out.," 13 Feb. 2020 To study the phenomenon in depth, Cohen and colleagues built a system that includes two pairs of electrodes, one on a horizontal axis and one on a vertical axis. Sara Reardon, Science | AAAS, "Watch scientists use electricity to herd skin cells, like sheep," 14 Jan. 2020 When Tarana Burke’s movement became a mass phenomenon in the fall of 2017, #MeToo’s expansion led to both exhilaration and anxiety: Was this reckoning sustainable? The Atlantic, "The 7 Most Defining #MeToo Moments of 2019," 12 Dec. 2019 For the initiated: TikTok, an app that lets users upload their own short videos, became a phenomenon in 2019. Leah Prinzivalli, Allure, "The Best Beauty TikToks of 2019," 9 Dec. 2019 BioPharma Dive’s Andrew Dunn is out with an excellent series on a recent spike in biotech bankruptcies—a relatively rare phenomenon in the field that has some investors worried. Sy Mukherjee, Fortune, "Novartis’ $9.7 Billion Deal Sets off Heart Drug Wars," 25 Nov. 2019 The revolving door between the public sector and the special interests is not a new phenomenon in Illinois or elsewhere. Ray Long, chicagotribune.com, "ComEd enjoyed major success in Springfield by hiring lobbyists who were former lawmakers or Madigan staffers. Now the feds are scrutinizing the utility’s practices.," 8 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

18 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Phenomenon.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/phenomenon. Accessed 31 Mar. 2020.

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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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