spec·​ter | \ˈspek-tər \
variants: or spectre

Definition of specter 

1 : a visible disembodied spirit : ghost

2 : something that haunts or perturbs the mind : phantasm the specter of hunger

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Examples of specter in a Sentence

feeling so terrified that every shadow became a specter

Recent Examples on the Web

Well, right now, today, is the specter of what’s going to happen in the economy. Eric Johnson, Recode, "Big data could ‘stop famines from ever happening again,’ says World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim," 24 Sep. 2018 In Philippians 1:20, when facing the specter of execution, Paul wanted Christ to be honored in his life and possible death. Loren A. Yadon, idahostatesman, "Leaving the ‘stage of life’ to the applause of heaven," 12 July 2018 In that backdrop is the specter of Griffin, one of the team’s prized 2018 draft picks, competing as his backup and potential heir apparent. Bob Condotta, The Seattle Times, "Ranking the Seahawks’ roster: Who makes our top 10?," 22 July 2018 Hovering over Helsinki is the specter of the 2016 election interference and ongoing special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russia. Jonathan Lemire, Fox News, "Amid investigations and tensions, Trump-Putin going 1-on-1," 16 July 2018 There is also the specter of non-athletic scandal around the edges. USA TODAY, "Against tense global backdrop, let the Games begin," 7 Feb. 2018 The specter of 2016's vote was cited repeatedly by speakers during Monday's meeting. Lily Altavena, azcentral, "Mesa approves lease to bring ASU to its downtown," 4 June 2018 Like every other team out west, the Rockets have operated for the past four years under the Warriors' specter. Lee Jenkins, SI.com, "Big Hearts and Short Fuses: Draymond Green Doesn't Believe in Switch-Flipping," 16 May 2018 Nigeria’s past, present and future converge in these stories, where the relationships between mothers and daughters often play a central role; many stories linger under the specter of war. Joumana Khatib, New York Times, "Paperback Row," 20 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'specter.' 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 specter

1605, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for specter

French spectre, from Latin spectrum appearance, specter, from specere to look, look at — more at spy

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Statistics for specter

Last Updated

3 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for specter

The first known use of specter was in 1605

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More Definitions for specter



English Language Learners Definition of specter

: a ghost or spirit of a dead person


variants: or spectre \ˈspek-​tər \

Kids Definition of specter

1 : ghost

2 : something that haunts or bothers the mind the specter of starvation

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More from Merriam-Webster on specter

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with specter

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for specter

Spanish Central: Translation of specter

Nglish: Translation of specter for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of specter for Arabic Speakers

Comments on specter

What made you want to look up specter? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


living or existing for a long time

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