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[fan-tuh m] /ˈfæn təm/
an apparition or specter.
an appearance or illusion without material substance, as a dream image, mirage, or optical illusion.
a person or thing of merely illusory power, status, efficacy, etc.:
the phantom of fear.
an illustration, part of which is given a transparent effect so as to permit representation of details otherwise hidden from view, as the inner workings of a mechanical device.
of, relating to, or of the nature of a phantom; illusory:
a phantom sea serpent.
Electricity. noting or pertaining to a phantom circuit.
named, included, or recorded but nonexistent; fictitious:
Payroll checks were made out and cashed for phantom employees.
Also, fantom.
1250-1300; Middle English fantosme < Middle French, Old French < Latin phantasma phantasm
Related forms
phantomlike, adjective
1, 2. See apparition. 5. imaginary.
5. real, material. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for phantoms
  • Such phantoms of missing body parts are generated by the same brain mechanisms that generate the experience of an existing limb.
  • The walls are an immense concourse of phantoms, of people trapped in amber.
  • He sees dead people, and they're not your typical brand of horror-movie phantoms either.
  • Empty and drear was each room, and haunted with phantoms of terror.
  • Creeks are phantoms, the caked bottoms littered with rotting, dead fish.
  • The presence of some may be justified by the fact that they are phantoms, though of whose mind is never clear.
  • They're weightless, translucent phantoms who seem to have emerged from the television screen.
British Dictionary definitions for phantoms


  1. an apparition or spectre
  2. (as modifier): a phantom army marching through the sky
the visible representation of something abstract, esp as appearing in a dream or hallucination: phantoms of evil haunted his sleep
something apparently unpleasant or horrific that has no material form
(med) another name for manikin (sense 2b)
Word Origin
C13: from Old French fantosme, from Latin phantasmaphantasm
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
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Word Origin and History for phantoms



c.1300, fantum "illusion, unreality," from Old French fantosme (12c.), from Vulgar Latin *fantauma, from Latin phantasma "an apparition" (see phantasm). The ph- was restored in English late 16c. (see ph). Meaning "specter, spirit, ghost" is attested from late 14c.; that of "something having the form, but not the substance, of a real thing" is from 1707. As an adjective from early 15c.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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phantoms in Medicine

phantom phan·tom or fan·tom (fān'təm)

  1. Something apparently seen, heard, or sensed, but having no physical reality.

  2. An image that appears only in the mind; an illusion.

  3. A model, especially a transparent one, of the human body or of any of its parts.

  1. Resembling, characteristic of, or being a phantom; illusive.

  2. Fictitious; nonexistent.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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