phan·​tas·​ma·​go·​ria (ˌ)fan-ˌtaz-mə-ˈgȯr-ē-ə How to pronounce phantasmagoria (audio)
: an exhibition of optical effects and illusions
: a constantly shifting complex succession of things seen or imagined
: a scene that constantly changes
: a bizarre or fantastic combination, collection, or assemblage
phantasmagoric adjective
or phantasmagorical

Example Sentences

He saw a phantasmagoria of shadowy creatures through the fog.
Recent Examples on the Web The agro-industrial phantasmagoria grows in scale with every iteration. Jan Dutkiewicz, The New Republic, 15 Feb. 2023 There is something more than the muffled phantasmagoria of urban life going on here. Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, 26 Jan. 2023 Rhapsody was a phantasmagoria of different abstractions. Vulture, 27 July 2022 Before the development of a protocol to fend off the raptures, there was every chance that what a diver witnessed on their descent was a phantasmagoria of the mind, as much as of the ocean. Rebecca Giggs, The New York Review of Books, 1 Dec. 2022 Nelsons’s treatment of the vast, sprawling finale found a sweet spot between control and freedom, and brought out the vividness of Mahler’s musical phantasmagoria. Jeremy Eichler,, 21 Oct. 2022 Alas, Harper also has the misfortune of anchoring the latest cinematic phantasmagoria from Alex Garland, a writer and director who likes to play sinister mind games with characters and audiences alike. Justin Changfilm Critic, Los Angeles Times, 19 May 2022 The stories, ethnographic in perspective but Gogolian in register, gravitate toward inexplicable disappearances, repressed memories, and phantasmagoria. The New Yorker, 28 Mar. 2022 The collection seemed at times like a visual phantasmagoria, dipping in and out of different times periods as the house itself looks back to its heritage and forward to the future. Thomas Adamson, USA TODAY, 6 Oct. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'phantasmagoria.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


borrowed from French phantasmogorie (later fantasmagorie) "theatrical show using magic lanterns in a darkened performance space to suggest supernatural phenomena," from fantasme phantasm + -ogorie, -agorie, of uncertain origin

Note: The French word was used by the magician Paul Phylidor (†1829, of uncertain nationality), apparently first in an announcement of a performance in the Parisian journal Affiches, annonces et avis divers for December 16, 1792. The performance is discussed slightly earlier under the heading "Phantasmogorie" in a letter by one "A.L.M.", in an issue of the Magasin encyclopédique for December 3, 1792 (pp. 17-19). The final element -agorie has been variously explained; perhaps the most plausible suggestion is that it was split off from allégorie allegory. In a handbill for a performance in Vienna in March, 1790, Phylidor uses the presumably plural form phantasmorasi: "… wird der Physikus Phylidor seine Darstellungen der sogenannten Phantasmorasi, oder natürlicher Geister Erscheinungen … einem hohen und unschätzbaren Publikum die Ehre haben zu zeigen" ("… the physician Phylidor will have the honor to exhibit his representations of the so-called Phantasmorasi, or natural spirit phenomena, to a high and inestimable public"). The relation of this earlier word to phantasmogorie is unclear. (The handbill is preserved in the Vienna City Library.)

First Known Use

circa 1802, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of phantasmagoria was circa 1802

Dictionary Entries Near phantasmagoria

Cite this Entry

“Phantasmagoria.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Mar. 2023.

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