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

Medicine actually has a name for this annoying phenomenon: tinnitus. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "What Is Tinnitus?," 30 Jan. 2019 That rapid growth underscores the fact that Giving Tuesday has become a phenomenon in its own right — an outlet for a backlash against the consumerism of the holiday shopping season. Kelsey Piper, Vox, "Giving Tuesday, explained," 27 Nov. 2018 The sun wouldn’t even be sending out those particles, named photons, if not for the same phenomenon that might underlie our sense of smell — quantum tunneling. Tim Folger, Discover Magazine, "How Quantum Mechanics Lets Us See, Smell and Touch," 24 Oct. 2018 But as global average temperatures have risen half a degree in that span, these bleaching events have become a regular phenomenon. Nadja Popovich, The Seattle Times, "Why half a degree of global warming is a big deal," 9 Oct. 2018 But now that MiniBooNE has observed the very same pattern, scientists are being forced to reckon with potentially more profound causes for the phenomenon. Clara Moskowitz, Scientific American, "Evidence Builds for a New Kind of Neutrino," 7 June 2018 But a piece like NBC’s was almost inevitable, given the long history of climate-change deniers blaming volcanoes for the phenomenon. Emily Atkin, The New Republic, "What Is Kilauea’s Impact on the Climate?," 26 May 2018 Scientists who study time and our perception of it have multiple explanations for this phenomenon. Andy Newman, New York Times, "Train Delays, the New Subway Plan and the Perception of Time," 25 May 2018 Many of the Earth's most dramatic natural phenomena are hidden from us. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "French Island Might Be Sitting On Top of Gigantic Underwater Magma Shift," 20 Mar. 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

16 Apr 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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