a visible incorporeal spirit, especially one of a terrifying nature; ghost; phantom; apparition.
some object or source of terror or dread: the specter of disease or famine.
Also, especially British, spectre.

1595–1605; < Latin spectrum; see spectrum

1. shade. See ghost.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
spectre or (US) specter (ˈspɛktə)
1.  a ghost; phantom; apparition
2.  a mental image of something unpleasant or menacing: the spectre of redundancy
[C17: from Latin spectrum, from specere to look at]
specter or (US) specter
[C17: from Latin spectrum, from specere to look at]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

1605, from Fr. spectre "an image, figure, ghost" (16c.), from L. spectrum "appearance, vision, apparition" (see spectrum). Spectral is attested from 1815 in the sense of "ghostly" (first recorded in Shelley); 1832 in sense of "of or pertaining to a spectrum."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
Surrounded by lesser figures, the striking specter nearly eight feet tall
  shimmers on the canyon wall under the relentless sun.
In fact, in long term this may raise the specter of knowledge squeeze.
There rises the specter of the tyranny of the majority, after the majority
  trades silence for tweets and blogs.
The specter of a highly contagious and deadly influenza is alarming indeed.
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