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

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

Thanks largely to a 2015 video in which Ryan, then 3, reviewed 100 toys at once, his YouTube channel, Ryan ToysReview, became a viral phenomenon. Time Staff, Time, "The 25 Most Influential People on the Internet," 28 June 2018 Meanwhile, tapas have become an international phenomenon. Sylvie Bigar,, "In Seville, Spain, young chefs are creating the next generation of tapas," 15 June 2018 Four brothers, including original designer George Marciano, in 1981 founded the brand whose denim became a phenomenon in the 1980s and 1990s. Washington Post, "Guess co-founder resigns after sex misconduct investigation," 12 June 2018 Since Wild Wild Country's March debut, the gripping documentary series has become the latest unscripted phenomenon from Netflix. Bryn Elise Sandberg, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Wild Wild Country' Filmmakers Reveal the One Person Who Refused to Be Interviewed," 1 June 2018 So how did an obscure Canadian psychologist become an international phenomenon? Zack Beauchamp, Vox, "Jordan Peterson, the obscure Canadian psychologist turned right-wing celebrity, explained," 21 May 2018 Social media puts everyone on a level playing field, with a single Tweet or Instagram Story carrying the potential to become a cultural phenomenon, which means anyone can be a public figure. Kathryn Lindsay,, "There's No Such Thing As A "Good" Viral Moment Anymore," 10 July 2018 Live tweeting other people's romantic interactions has become such a widespread phenomenon that even celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon. Taylor Lorenz, The Atlantic, "Stop Live-Tweeting Strangers Flirting," 9 July 2018 Over 50 years ago, the world was first introduced to what would quickly become a cultural phenomenon. Phillip Molnar,, "Comic-Con 2018: Here's your Friday schedule," 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.

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

Share phenomenon

Statistics for phenomenon

Last Updated

17 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for phenomenon

The first known use of phenomenon was in 1605

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for phenomenon



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


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


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

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).


alleviating pain or harshness

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

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