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

Essential Meaning of phenomenon

1 : 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 natural phenomena like lightning and earthquakes the phenomenon of love
2 : someone or something that is very impressive or popular especially because of an unusual ability or quality the greatest literary phenomenon of the decade He's a football/baseball phenomenon. The movie eventually became a cultural phenomenon.

Full 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

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 My uncle, who was usually the one to accompany me on my daily trips to buy a cup, would joke about my milk tea addiction—one that has since become a global phenomenon. Darice Chang, Bon Appétit, 6 Jan. 2022 Pizza, like the internet and the blockchain, is a global phenomenon that unites us. Samara Lynn, ABC News, 1 Jan. 2022 Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is a global phenomenon. NBC News, 26 Dec. 2021 Japan’s central bank kept its monetary policy ultraloose and expressed minimal concern about inflation, joining continental Europe in showing that recent tightening in the U.S. doesn’t necessarily represent a global phenomenon. Megumi Fujikawa, WSJ, 17 Dec. 2021 Caleb Finch, a biologist at the University of Southern California who studied that phenomenon, thought lung cancer and heart disease accounted for most of the difference. al, 16 Nov. 2021 That phenomenon has led analysts, fund managers, and market strategists to argue that the CAPE has become irrelevant. Shawn Tully, Fortune, 5 Nov. 2021 On climate, that phenomenon has been particularly acute. Kevin Liptak, CNN, 21 Oct. 2021 Showrunner Sera Gamble is interested in that phenomenon. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, 21 Oct. 2021

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near phenomenon

phenomenology

phenomenon

phenomic

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for phenomenon

Last Updated

14 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Phenomenon.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/phenomenon. Accessed 26 Jan. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for phenomenon

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

More from Merriam-Webster on phenomenon

Nglish: Translation of phenomenon for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of phenomenon for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about phenomenon

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Thing: Flower Edition

How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

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!