A phenomenon is an extraordinary occurrence or circumstance. In the 1950s, rock-n-roll was considered a new cultural phenomenon, while today we think of crop circles as a mysterious phenomenon.

Like many words with Greek roots, phenomenon started out as a science term. Scientists used it (and still do) to describe any event or fact that could be observed, amazing or not. An earthquake, for example, was a phenomenon, because you could see it (and hear it and feel it). Phenomenon is an example of a word having a specific meaning for one group of people that gets changed when used by the general public.

Definitions of phenomenon

n any state or process known through the senses rather than by intuition or reasoning

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natural phenomenon
all phenomena that are not artificial
the phenomenon of a person or thing rising into the air by apparently supernatural means
metempsychosis, rebirth
after death the soul begins a new cycle of existence in another human body
consequence, effect, event, issue, outcome, result, upshot
a phenomenon that follows and is caused by some previous phenomenon
chance, fortune, hazard, luck
an unknown and unpredictable phenomenon that causes an event to result one way rather than another
fortune, luck
an unknown and unpredictable phenomenon that leads to a favorable outcome
a periodically recurring phenomenon that alternately increases and decreases some quantity
materialisation, materialization, offspring
something that comes into existence as a result
chemical phenomenon
any natural phenomenon involving chemistry (as changes to atoms or molecules)
any result that follows its cause after an interval
aftermath, backwash, wake
the consequences of an event (especially a catastrophic event)
bandwagon effect
the phenomenon of a popular trend attracting even greater popularity
the shattering or crushing effect of a sudden release of energy as in an explosion
butterfly effect
the phenomenon whereby a small change at one place in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere, e.g., a butterfly flapping its wings in Rio de Janeiro might change the weather in Chicago
by-product, byproduct
a secondary and sometimes unexpected consequence
the result of alteration or modification
coattails effect
(politics) the consequence of one popular candidate in an election drawing votes for other members of the same political party
Coriolis effect
(physics) an effect whereby a body moving in a rotating frame of reference experiences the Coriolis force acting perpendicular to the direction of motion and to the axis of rotation; on Earth the Coriolis effect deflects moving bodies to the right in the northern hemisphere and to the left in the southern hemisphere
an appreciable consequence (especially a lessening)
domino effect
the consequence of one event setting off a chain of similar events (like a falling domino causing a whole row of upended dominos to fall)
the consequence of an effort or activity
impact, wallop
a forceful consequence; a strong effect
the effect of one thing (or person) on another
knock-on effect
a secondary or incidental effect
branch, offset, offshoot, outgrowth
a natural consequence of development
a consequence of someone's efforts or of a particular set of circumstances
placebo effect
any effect that seems to be a consequence of administering a placebo; the change is usually beneficial and is assumed result from the person's faith in the treatment or preconceptions about what the experimental drug was supposed to do; pharmacologists were the first to talk about placebo effects but now the idea has been generalized to many situations having nothing to do with drugs
position effect
(genetics) the effect on the expression of a gene that is produced by changing its location in a chromosome
repercussion, reverberation
a remote or indirect consequence of some action
a result
fallout, side effect
any adverse and unwanted secondary effect
geological phenomenon
a natural phenomenon involving the structure or composition of the earth
organic phenomenon
(biology) a natural phenomenon involving living plants and animals
physical phenomenon
a natural phenomenon involving the physical properties of matter and energy
bad luck, mischance, mishap
an unpredictable outcome that is unfortunate
fluke, good fortune, good luck
a stroke of luck
(economics) any indirect effect of public expenditure
even chance, toss-up, tossup
an unpredictable phenomenon
Type of:
physical process, process
a sustained phenomenon or one marked by gradual changes through a series of states

n a remarkable development

Type of:
a recent event that has some relevance for the present situation

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