[ fan-taz-muh-gawr-ik, -gor- ]
/ fænˌtæz məˈgɔr ɪk, -ˈgɒr- /
Save This Word!

having a fantastic or deceptive appearance, as something in a dream or created by the imagination.
having the appearance of an optical illusion, especially one produced by a magic lantern.
changing or shifting, as a scene made up of many elements.
Smoothly step over to these common grammar mistakes that trip many people up. Good luck!
Question 1 of 7
Fill in the blank: I can’t figure out _____ gave me this gift.
Also phan·tas·ma·gor·i·cal [fan-taz-muh-gawr-i-kuhl, -gor-] /fænˌtæz məˈgɔr ɪ kəl, -ˈgɒr-/ . Sometimes phan·tas·ma·go·ri·al [fan-taz-muh-gawr-ee-uhl, -gor-] /fænˌtæz məˈgɔr i əl, -ˈgɒr-/ .

OTHER WORDS FROM phantasmagoric

phan·tas·ma·gor·i·cal·ly, adverbphan·tas·ma·go·ri·al·ly, phan·tas·ma·go·ri·an·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does phantasmagorical mean?

Phantasmagorical describes something with a dreamlike, fantastical, unreal, deceptive, or shifting appearance, like an optical illusion.

Phantasmagorical is a big and relatively uncommon word, and you may encounter it more often in literary or learned contexts than in everyday conversation. But, it’s also a vivid word, a great way to liven up your vocabulary around Halloween … or when something strange is going on in your life..

Example: The phantasmagorical scenes painted on the backdrop heightened the surreality of the play.

Where does phantasmagorical come from?

Phantasmagorical comes from phantasmagoria, recorded in 1802 as a name for a magic lantern show famously brought to London by Parisian Paul de Philipstal. The earlier French term was fantasmagorie, formed from the Greek words phantasma (“image, apparition”) and, some think, agora (“assembly”). A phantasmagoria came to describe any kind of magic lantern show with projected images.

Phantasmagorical is the adjective form of phantasmagoria found by the 1820s, with phantasmagoric documented slightly earlier. The sense evolved from its original reference to a light show to “a rapidly shifting, startling scene” and then to something with an “unreal” or “surreal” quality, positive or negative.

In political discourse, phantasmagorical is often negative, e.g., a phantasmagorical sense of one’s own power is illusory, misleading. But, if you’re talking about the mood, for instance, of a production of Macbeth you saw, phantasmagorical could compliment the stage effects.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms of phantasmagorical?

What are some synonyms for phantasmagorical?

What are some words that share a root or word element with phantasmagorical?

What are some words that often get used in discussing phantasmagorical?

What are some words phantasmagorical may be commonly confused with?

How is phantasmagorical used in real life?

You may see phantasmagorical used when people talk about visual and audio  effects, for instance, in theater, movies, and music. Sometimes it crops up in literary and political discussions.

With the sense of “illusory” or “unreal”:

Suggesting something “confusing” or “disconcerting” in its effect:

Phantasmagorical as “dream-like”:

Try using phantasmagorical!

Imagine you’re going to a concert by a psychedelic band that projects “trippy” images on the ceiling. Use phantasmagorical in a sentence to describe the show to your friends.