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 phenomenon (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 Since such issues are always easier to simply show than describe, here are a few good video examples of the phenomenon occurring in a post by AVSforum user That Guy Logan. John Archer, Forbes, "LG Promises A Resolution For Latest OLED TV Luminance Overshoot Issue," 28 Feb. 2021 Yet much of this phenomenon is not driven by the modest — albeit vocal — number of menacing true believers. Frederick M. Hess, National Review, "Lone Whistleblower Takes On the Woke Racists at Smith College," 24 Feb. 2021 Hurricanes, snowstorms, large fires, and significant rainfall are not new kinds of weather phenomenon in the US. Karen Ho, Quartz, "E-commerce is on a collision course with climate change," 18 Feb. 2021 In the span of just three seasons, Dan Harmon’s brilliant animated sci-fi comedy has developed into the kind of phenomenon that people obsess over. Brian Tallerico, Vulture, "The 100 Best TV Shows on Hulu Right Now," 1 Feb. 2021 Rosen reportedly refused, telling the president that the department found no evidence of such a phenomenon. Jerry Dunleavy, Washington Examiner, "DOJ watchdog launches investigation into any 'improper' effort to 'alter' 2020 election results," 25 Jan. 2021 All of his places straddle the line between restaurant and bar — the reverse of the phenomenon in which local chefs and restaurateurs open gastro pubs and wine bars. New York Times, "A New Orleans Mardi Gras With a Different Sort of Mask," 19 Jan. 2021 Human beings have been aware of the phenomenon since ancient times. Amanda Foreman, WSJ, "Awed by the Meteor Shower of the New Year’s Sky," 1 Jan. 2021 For another, the taboos around mental illness, as strong if not stronger then than now, mean the numbers may not accurately reflect the extent of the phenomenon. Laura Spinney, Time, "What Long Flu Sufferers of the 1918-1919 Pandemic Can Tell Us About Long COVID Today," 31 Dec. 2020

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

3 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Phenomenon.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/phenomenon. Accessed 7 Mar. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLA Chicago APA Merriam-Webster

Keep scrolling for more

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 phenomenon (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

Test Your Vocabulary

Who Knew?

Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Typeshift

Anagram puzzles meet word search.

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!