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

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 On Monday night, there was more evidence of the Yang phenomenon. Holly Bailey, BostonGlobe.com, "Andrew Yang, shut out of debate, hosts a pre-debate rally with MATH pins and birthday cake," 14 Jan. 2020 The flurries came courtesy of a quirky weather phenomenon called snow seeding. Meg Jones, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Weather phenomenon known as snow seeding created plume of snow flurries in southeastern Wisconsin Tuesday," 31 Dec. 2019 For the 2019 movie version of the theatrical phenomenon, CGI is used to create the illusion of feline fur rather than throwing the actors in spandex and crossing their fingers like every amateur production before them. Andrea Wurzburger, PEOPLE.com, "Here's What the Cast of Cats Looks Like Compared to Their Real-Life Cat Counterparts," 20 Dec. 2019 Classic conspiracy theories like the fake moon landing or the 9/11 inside job are more complex versions of this phenomenon. Joshua Pease, Popular Mechanics, "How You've Been Conditioned to Love Conspiracy Theories," 17 Dec. 2019 Mentions of the phenomenon predate verifiable findings. Adrian Daub, Longreads, "All Hail the Rat King," 13 Dec. 2019 But with South Fourth's proximity to those historic hotels, the Kentucky International Convention Center, 221 S. Fourth St., and newer properties like the Embassy Suites at 501 S. Fourth St., there's a bit of a phenomenon in this area. Maggie Menderski, The Courier-Journal, "A Day in the Neighborhood: Why South Fourth Street defines Louisville more than we realize," 12 Dec. 2019 One of the most damaging examples of that cumulative phenomenon is the microscopic particulate matter produced by burning fossil fuels. Jeffrey Kluger, Time, "How Climate Change is Clobbering Kids' Health," 13 Nov. 2019 Ascension Parish is perhaps the clearest example of this phenomenon. Joan Meiners, ProPublica, "Even Louisiana’s Wealthier Neighborhoods Can’t Escape Toxic Air in “Cancer Alley”," 3 Nov. 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.

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

Time Traveler for phenomenon

Time Traveler

The first known use of phenomenon was in 1605

See more words from the same year

Statistics for phenomenon

Last Updated

22 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Phenomenon.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/phenomenon?pronunciation&lang=en_us&dir=p&file=phenom14. Accessed 28 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for phenomenon

phenomenon

noun
How to pronounce phenomenon (audio)

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

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).

WORD OF THE DAY

showing steady, earnest care and effort

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Intact Latin Quiz

  • roman tablet
  • What did focus mean in Latin?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Add Diction

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

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!