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Definition of Phenomenon

(noun) An observable circumstance, event, fact or occurrence.

Examples of Phenomenon

  • birthrate in a certain population.
  • football game
  • group dynamics

Phenomenon Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: phe·nom·e·non

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /fi-nAHm-uh-nahn/
  • British English – /fi-nOm-i-nuhn/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /fəˈnɑməˌnɑn/
  • British English – /fᵻˈnɒmᵻnən/

Usage Notes

  • Plural: phenomena
  • Outside of scientific use, phenomenon has a connotation of mystery or the paranormal.

Related Quotations

  • “But in reality there is in every society a specific group of phenomena which are distinguished by characteristics that are quite separate from those studied by the other natural sciences. When I undertake my duties as a brother, husband, or citizen and fulfil the commitments that I have entered into, I perform obligations which are defined outside myself and my actions, in law and custom . . . Here, then, is a category of facts with very special characteristics: they consist of ways of acting, thinking and feeling that are external to the individual and are endowed with a coercive power by virtue of which they exercise control over him” (Durkheim [1895] 2004:46–47).
  • “We thus arrive at the point where we can formulate precisely the field of sociology. It includes only one specific group of phenomena. A social fact is recognized by the power of external coercion which it exercises, or is capable of exercising, over individuals; and the presence of this power is in turn recognizable by the existence of some specific sanction, or by the resistance that it offers to any individual action that would violate it” (Durkheim [1895] 2004:49).
  • “When one undertakes to explain a social phenomenon, one must study separately the efficient cause which produces it and the function it fulfils . . . For example, the social reaction which constitutes punishment is due to the intensity of the collective sentiments that the crime offends. On the other hand, its useful function is to maintain these sentiments at the same degree of intensity, for they would soon diminish if the offences committed against them went unpunished” (Durkheim [1895] 2004:59).

Additional Information

Related Terms


Durkheim, Émile. [1895] 2004. “The Rules of Sociological Method.” Pp. 43–63 in Readings from Emile Durkheim. Rev. ed., edited and translated by K. Thompson. New York: Routledge.

Cite the Definition of Phenomenon

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “phenomenon.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved May 29, 2023 (https://sociologydictionary.org/phenomenon/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

phenomenon. (2014). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/phenomenon/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “phenomenon.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed May 29, 2023. https://sociologydictionary.org/phenomenon/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“phenomenon.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2014. Web. 29 May. 2023. <https://sociologydictionary.org/phenomenon/>.