spec·​ter | \ ˈspek-tər How to pronounce specter (audio) \
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

The judge presiding over the high-profile case raised the specter of contempt findings on Tuesday. Los Angeles Times, "Newsletter: Unprecedented insight into how earthquakes start, via new research," 21 Aug. 2019 China further rattled markets on Monday by allowing its currency to sharply lose value against the US dollar, raising the specter of a full-blown currency war. Matt Egan, CNN, "Hedge fund manager Kyle Bass wants Elizabeth Warren to be president: She 'would be a problem' for China," 8 Aug. 2019 Flight cancellations are a constant specter looming over any trip. Jessica Puckett, Condé Nast Traveler, "How to Deal With Flight Cancellations Due to Strikes," 18 July 2019 But part of the story also takes place in the present, as a Japanese American community in Southern California is haunted by a mysterious specter. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Evil shapeshifters stalk by night in first trailer for AMC’s The Terror: Infamy," 20 June 2019 Peter is still reeling from the loss of Tony Stark, who remains a specter wherever Peter turns. Nick Romano, EW.com, "Spider-Man: Far From Home," 24 June 2018 However, the move to Singapore raised the specter of being taxed in the United States. Max De Haldevang, Quartz, "How Sequoia Capital is trying to avoid taxes on over a billion dollars in Indian investments," 22 July 2019 Raising the specter of yet another time-consuming review of the contracting process could further delay an award that was scheduled for late last year. Jay Greene, Washington Post, "Trump says Pentagon’s $10 billion cloud contract should be investigated. Again.," 18 July 2019 In the last year, the Republican president has raised the specter of a commutation for the disgraced former governor who’s halfway through a 14-year sentence in a public corruption case. Lisa Donovan, chicagotribune.com, "The Rev. Jesse Jackson and Jesse Jackson Jr. ask President Trump for release, pardon of imprisoned former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich," 16 July 2019

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

27 Aug 2019

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

literary : 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).


miscellaneous remnants or debris

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