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 shadow of a diabolical specter is gradually introduced. Los Angeles Times, "Can the haunted house be reinvented for a digital stage? This L.A. theater tries," 3 May 2021 When national security adviser Henry Kissinger raised this specter, Nixon immediately expressed his worry that Ellsberg might have evidence of his secret bombing of Cambodia. Christian Appy, The Conversation, "How Richard Nixon’s obsession with Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers sowed the seeds for the president’s downfall," 23 Apr. 2021 But come finale night, Harrison's presence hung over the last episode of James' season like a specter. Martha Sorren, refinery29.com, "The Bachelor Finale Gave Chris Harrison The Mic After All," 15 Mar. 2021 By then, a new specter had emerged in the form of a National Weather Service forecast calling for up to 5 inches of snow in Pittsburgh beginning early Tuesday morning. Childs Walker, baltimoresun.com, "After whirlwind week, Ravens set for strangest game in team history — on a Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh," 1 Dec. 2020 Travel commences when Kazu pours a fresh cup of java; to avoid becoming a permanent specter, the traveler must conclude the short visit and drain the cup before the liquid becomes cold. Terry Hong, The Christian Science Monitor, "A chance to redo the past in ‘Before the Coffee Gets Cold’," 19 Nov. 2020 Democrats have argued that invalidating Obamacare would take health insurance away from more than 20 million people, a specter that hung over Senate hearings to confirm President Trump’s latest Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. Cassidy Morrison, Washington Examiner, "Conservative justices appear skeptical of GOP case for throwing out Obamacare in Supreme Court," 10 Nov. 2020 The white-collar probe took on a dark specter in September, when Garrison, an allegedly prolific slammer, was shot dead at age 54 inside his apartment in the Gentilly neighborhood. John Simerman, NOLA.com, "New Orleans attorney charged in federal probe of brazen staged-accident scheme," 5 Nov. 2020 This hoary cold war cliché conjures a fantastic specter of relentless Russian expansion up to and beyond our very borders—the familiar projection of America’s aggressive policies onto a demonic Other. Jackson Lears, The New York Review of Books, "Don’t Wish for a Restoration," 3 Nov. 2020

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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Time Traveler for specter

Time Traveler

The first known use of specter was in 1605

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Statistics for specter

Last Updated

9 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Specter.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/specter. Accessed 16 May. 2021.

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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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