Share this entry

phenomenon Syllabification: phe·nom·e·non
Pronunciation: /fəˈnäməˌnän/

Definition of phenomenon in English:

noun (plural phenomena-nə)

1A fact or situation that is observed to exist or happen, especially one whose cause or explanation is in question: glaciers are unique and interesting natural phenomena
More example sentences
  • I might add that sometimes explanations of physical phenomena involve mathematical facts.
  • It was left to Newton to provide the mathematical explanation of the phenomena that they observed.
  • They want science to be redefined to include non-natural or supernatural explanations for natural phenomena.
1.1A remarkable person, thing, or event.
Example sentences
  • Perhaps the remarkable phenomenon is that anything like the old nationalism echoed at all.
  • Hip-hop has long been one of the most fashion-conscious cultural phenomena in America.
  • As he nears the end of his remarkable career, Warne is a phenomenon waiting to be cast in gold for posterity.
marvel, sensation, wonder, prodigy, miracle, rarity, nonpareil
informal humdinger, phenom, stunner, doozy, ripsnorter
2 Philosophy The object of a person’s perception; what the senses or the mind notice.
Example sentences
  • No empirical phenomena seem to demand a notion of backward causation for our understanding of them.
  • Kant also says that the categories can be applied to phenomena, but not to noumena.
  • According to Bohr, the only real properties of natural phenomena are observed phenomena.


Late 16th century: via late Latin from Greek phainomenon 'thing appearing to view', based on phainein 'to show'.

  • fantastic from Late Middle English:

    A word originally meaning ‘existing only in the imagination, unreal’ that comes from Greek phantastikos ‘vision’. Fantasy (Late Middle English) is of similar origin, as is fancy (Late Middle English), a contracted version of fantasy. The modern use of fantastic to mean ‘wonderful, excellent’ dates from the 1930s. The playful phrase trip the light fantastic, meaning ‘to dance’, goes back to John Milton's 1645 poem L'Allegro: ‘Come, and trip it as you go / On the light fantastic toe.’ Pant (Middle English) ‘to breath spasmodically’ goes back to the root verb of fantastic, phainon ‘to show’, via Old French pantaisier ‘be agitated, gasp’; as do phantom (Middle English) from phantasma ‘mere appearance’ and phenomenon (late 16th century) which meant ‘things appearing to view’ in the original Greek.


The word phenomenon comes from Greek, and its plural form is phenomena, as in these phenomena are not fully understood. It is a mistake to treat phenomena as if it were a singular form, as in this is a strange phenomena.

Words that rhyme with phenomenon


Definition of phenomenon in:

Share this entry


What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove adverts and access premium resources

Word of the day innocuous
Pronunciation: ɪˈnɒkjʊəs
not harmful or offensive