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[fi-nom-uh-non, -nuhn]
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noun, plural phe·nom·e·na [fi-nom-uh-nuh] /fɪˈnɒm ə nə/ or especially for 3, phe·nom·e·nons.
  1. a fact, occurrence, or circumstance observed or observable: to study the phenomena of nature.
  2. something that is impressive or extraordinary.
  3. a remarkable or exceptional person; prodigy; wonder.
  4. Philosophy.
    1. an appearance or immediate object of awareness in experience.
    2. Kantianism.a thing as it appears to and is constructed by the mind, as distinguished from a noumenon, or thing-in-itself.
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Origin of phenomenon

1595–1605; < Late Latin phaenomenon < Greek phainómenon appearance, noun use of neuter of phainómenos, present participle of phaínesthai to appear, passive of phaínein to show
Can be confusedphenomena phenomenal phenomenon (see usage note at the current entry)


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Usage note

As with other plurals of Latin or Greek origin, like media and criteria, there is a tendency to use the plural phenomena as a singular ( This phenomena will not be seen again ), but such use occurs infrequently in edited writing. The plural form phenomenas, though occasionally seen, has even less currency.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for phenomenon

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The nature of the phenomenon was clear, but the laws which governed it were still a mystery.

  • San Francisco was a pleasure-resort as well as a city, and Salt Lake was a phenomenon.

    American Notes

    Rudyard Kipling

  • Duncan observed this phenomenon with natural astonishment not unmixed with awe.

    The Fortune Hunter

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • They re-entered the cottage, and sat some time conversing on the phenomenon they had seen.

    Maid Marian

    Thomas Love Peacock

  • There was here a phenomenon that no physiologist had yet studied.

British Dictionary definitions for phenomenon


noun plural -ena (-ɪnə) or -enons
  1. anything that can be perceived as an occurrence or fact by the senses
  2. any remarkable occurrence or person
  3. philosophy
    1. the object of perception, experience, etc
    2. (in the writings of Kant) a thing as it appears and is interpreted in perception and reflection, as distinguished from its real nature as a thing-in-itselfCompare noumenon
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Word Origin

C16: via Late Latin from Greek phainomenon, from phainesthai to appear, from phainein to show


Although phenomena is often treated as if it were singular, correct usage is to employ phenomenon with a singular construction and phenomena with a plural: that is an interesting phenomenon (not phenomena); several new phenomena were recorded in his notes
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for phenomenon


1570s, "fact, occurrence," from Late Latin phænomenon, from Greek phainomenon "that which appears or is seen," noun use of neuter present participle of phainesthai "to appear," passive of phainein (see phantasm). Meaning "extraordinary occurrence" first recorded 1771. Plural is phenomena.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

phenomenon in Medicine


(fĭ-nŏmə-nŏn′, -nən)
  1. An occurrence, circumstance, or fact that is perceptible by the senses, especially one in relation to a disease.
  2. An unusual, significant, or unaccountable fact or occurrence; a marvel.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.