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

Traditionally, scientists have directly linked the phenomenon of learning to the existence of a nervous system. Katia Moskvitch, WIRED, "Slime Molds Remember—But Do They Learn?," 14 July 2018 Physicists and astronomers, however, aren't usually convinced that two phenomena are connected until there's no more than a one in 3.5 million, or 5 sigma, probability of a coincidence. Daniel Clery, Science | AAAS, "Ghostly particle caught in polar ice ushers in new way to look at the universe," 12 July 2018 Rather than accept established explanations for natural phenomena, Willughby asked questions, made careful observations, and dissected countless dead creatures to see what made them tick. David Holahan, The Christian Science Monitor, "'The Wonderful Mr. Willughby' profiles a pioneer of ornithology and early scientist," 12 July 2018 Sweis and his team decided to investigate the phenomenon in different species. Maya Miller, Scientific American, "Why It’s So Hard to Junk Bad Decisions—Edging Closer to Understanding “Sunk Cost”," 12 July 2018 Colony collapse disorder is the phenomenon that occurs when the majority of worker bees in a hive abandon the queen and the immature bees. Bethany Ao, Philly.com, "Philly millennials are buzzing about beekeeping," 11 July 2018 This total lunar eclipse will also be a blood moon, a phenomenon that occurs when the eclipse casts a shadow and causes the moon to look reddish or coppery in hue. Southern Living, "July's Blood Moon Will Be the Longest Lunar Eclipse in 100 Years," 11 July 2018 The surveillance video reveals a plethora of remarkable phenomena associated with a close-range lightning strike, few of which are observed. Matthew Cappucci, Washington Post, "Watch lightning strike dangerously close to this police officer," 29 June 2018 The new celebrity chef culture is a remarkable and admittedly annoying phenomenon. Angela Charlton, BostonGlobe.com, "Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain dead at 61," 8 June 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

15 Oct 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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