Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Something apparently seen, heard, or sensed, but having no physical reality; a ghost or an apparition.
  • n. Something elusive or delusive.
  • n. An image that appears only in the mind; an illusion.
  • n. Something dreaded or despised.
  • adj. Resembling, characteristic of, or being a phantom; illusive.
  • adj. Fictitious; nonexistent: phantom employees on the payroll.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Something apparently seen, heard, or sensed, but having no physical reality; a ghost or apparition; something elusive or delusive.
  • n. An image that appears only in the mind; an illusion.
  • adj. illusive
  • adj. fictitious or nonexistent

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Being, or of the nature of, a phantom.
  • n. That which has only an apparent existence; an apparition; a specter; a phantasm; a sprite; an airy spirit; an ideal image.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Appearance merely; illusion; unreality; fancy; delusion; deception; deceit.
  • n. A phantasm; a specter or apparition; an imagined vision; an optical illusion.
  • n. Same as manikin, 2.
  • Apparent merely; illusive; spectral; ghostly: as, a phantom ship.
  • n. A phantom crystal.
  • n. A map or diagram of the magnetic field made by strewing iron filings upon a plate of glass-or other smooth surface and allowing them to arrange themselves along the lines of force.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a ghostly appearing figure
  • n. something existing in perception only
  • adj. something apparently sensed but having no physical reality

Etymologies

Middle English fantom, from Old French fantosme, probably from Vulgar Latin *phantauma, from Greek dialectal *phantagma, from Greek phantasma; see phantasm.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English fantom, fantum, from Old French fantosme, from Latin phantasma, from Ancient Greek φάντασμα (phantasma). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • But he didn't know that Xerox created what it called a "phantom account" for his 1985 payout, credited it with hypothetical interest pegged to stock-market returns—often in the double digits—and subtracted the total from his pension.

    When Benefits Bite Back

  • At Jacques Torres , chocolatier clerk Katie Bast admits to seeding the tip jar with what she called "phantom dollars"—money from her own pocket.

    Tip the Iceberg

  • It documents what it calls phantom aid that's pledged by the US and other countries but never shows up.

    Afghanistan - The Other Lost War

  • We were also given what they call phantom stock for bonuses at the end of the year when we had a good profitable year.

    CNN Transcript Jul 7, 2006

  • I remember on Saturday I started to feel a little bit of what they call phantom pain and it was very freaky.

    Soul Surfer

  • The party says Canadians may be paying up to $20 million a year for what it calls "phantom gas".

    Thestar.com - Home Page

  • Now, after more than two and a half years of war, we on the other side know that the "phantom" is a grim and bloody reality, for we have known the hellish horrors which it perpetrates not only in battle, but in the peaceful villages and country.

    The Prussian Mind

  • That he had never heard the word phantom connected to the phrase was an unusual tribute to Vanko’s reputation.

    The Big Scam

  • I think avoiding litigation or physical assault by the ‘exposed party’ could be a mitigating factor in phantom writing.

    Who wrote that trashy celeb memoir?

  • Pensioner Donald Reddell described losing £3,000 in phantom withdrawals from ATMs even though his Barclaycard had only ever been used in a cash machine to change the pin, and was then placed in his safe.

    Phantom cash machine withdrawals can haunt consumers

Wordnik is becoming a not-for-profit! Read our announcement here.

Comments

Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • I remember references to 'Peter the Phantom Puller', the offscreen hand who slid panels aside, on the game show Blankety Blanks. Many moons ago.

    I wish I did not remember this.

    February 21, 2011

  • i use this word as a verb -- use it to replace the (extremely boring) word disappear.


    ex: 'pulled a phantom last night' ... 'sorry i phantomed on ya...'

    February 21, 2011

  • Zorro. See A Horse is a Horse

    February 1, 2008

  • phantastic word, mysterious; never seen, but always there and appearing just when you do not ecpect it!!!!!

    January 25, 2008