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phenomenon

[ fi-nom-uh-non, -nuhn ]
/ fɪˈnɒm əˌnɒn, -nən /
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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.
a fact, occurrence, or circumstance observed or observable: to study the phenomena of nature.
something that is impressive or extraordinary.
a remarkable or exceptional person; prodigy; wonder.
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

First recorded in 1580–90; from Late Latin phaenomenon, from Greek phainómenon “appearance,” noun use of neuter of phainómenos, present participle of phaínesthai “to appear, become visible,” passive of phaínein “to show, bring to light, make known”

WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH phenomenon

phenomena, phenomenal, phenomenon (see usage note at phenomena)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

VOCAB BUILDER

What does phenomenon mean?

Phenomenon most generally refers to an observable occurrence or circumstance. For example, a hurricane is a kind of weather phenomenon.

Phenomenon is also commonly used to refer to an extraordinary event or something that becomes the subject of widespread interest and attention, as in The movie has become a worldwide phenomenon.

Sometimes, phenomenon refers to a person with an extraordinary talent or ability, especially a relatively young person who is considered a prodigy. The word phenom (a shortened form of phenomenon) is commonly used to mean the same thing, as in She became an internationally known chess phenom when she was just 14 years old.

The plural of phenomenon is phenomena.

The adjective phenomenal is most commonly used to mean highly extraordinary or exceptional, as in It was a phenomenal display of skill. It can also be used more generally to mean relating to phenomena in some way, as in My philosophy paper deals with the phenomenal qualities of existence.

Example: Halley’s comet is a phenomenon that occurs every 76 years.

Where does phenomenon come from?

The first records of the word phenomenon come from the 1580s. It comes from the Greek phainómenon, from the verb phaínesthai, meaning “to appear, become visible,” from phaínein, “to show, bring to light, make known.”

Most senses of phenomenon deal with things that are visible or observable or that have become well-known. In science, the word phenomenon is typically used to refer to anything that occurs naturally and can be observed, such as a weather phenomenon or a cosmic phenomenon. In philosophy, it’s used more broadly to refer to an object of perception or experience. In a more popular sense, it refers to something that has become a spectacle or the source of a lot of attention, or to someone who is famed for their exceptional talent.

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How is phenomenon used in real life?

Phenomenon is a somewhat formal word, but it can be used in all kinds of contexts, including serious scientific ones and ones involving pop culture.

Try using phenomenon!

True or False?

Lightning is a kind of weather phenomenon.

How to use phenomenon in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for phenomenon

phenomenon
/ (fɪˈnɒmɪnən) /

noun plural -ena (-ɪnə) or -enons
anything that can be perceived as an occurrence or fact by the senses
any remarkable occurrence or person
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

Word Origin for phenomenon

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

usage for phenomenon

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

Medical definitions for phenomenon

phenomenon
[ fĭ-nŏmə-nŏn′, -nən ]

n.
An occurrence, circumstance, or fact that is perceptible by the senses, especially one in relation to a disease.
An unusual, significant, or unaccountable fact or occurrence; a marvel.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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