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

For once, Hollywood has found a way to gracefully re-create a phenomenon. Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, "Review: 'Big Little Lies' Season 2 is almost as exquisite as the original," 7 June 2019 Some market experts have dismissed the inversion as a fluke phenomenon driven by the fact that investors are rushing to buy US bonds as a sign of confidence in America's resilient economy. Paul R. La Monica, CNN, "Worried about an economic slowdown? Keep an eye on these indicators," 6 June 2019 This is a very tangential thing, but do think that’s sort of exemplified by like the weirdness of, say, Gritty becoming this huge pop culture phenomenon and being on the cover of Artforum? Tobias Carroll, Longreads, "Kristen Arnett on Taxidermy, Memory, and “Mostly Dead Things”," 6 June 2019 These micro-Newton thrusters are the kind that were used by the LISA Pathfinder mission, which needs extremely precise positioning ability to detect faint phenomena like gravitational waves. Daniel Oberhaus, WIRED, "A Mythical Form of Space Propulsion Finally Gets a Real Test," 5 June 2019 This phenomenon has been widely reported throughout the Caribbean as well, where sargassum hits east and south shores but leaves the often resort-heavy west side of islands free of debris. Dan Sweeney, sun-sentinel.com, "South Floridians are sick of smelly seaweed; cities say they’re doing what they can," 3 June 2019 In fact, this phenomenon is already burgeoning in the Northeastern US. Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, "IEA: Nuke retirements could lead to 4 billion metric tons of extra CO2 emissions," 28 May 2019 There were multiple phenomena occurring during the period after the asteroid or comet hit. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "The Annihilation Event That Killed The Dinosaurs Left This Diverse Graveyard Trapped in Time," 1 Apr. 2019 The three-month yield this year has periodically exceeded the 10-year yield, a phenomenon known as an inverted yield curve that has preceded... Daniel Kruger, WSJ, "A Tale of Two Yield Curves," 21 May 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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Statistics for phenomenon

Last Updated

11 Jun 2019

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 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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