1. Something apparently seen, heard, or sensed, but having no physical reality; a ghost or apparition.
2. An image that appears only in the mind; an illusion: phantoms of a disturbed mind.
3. Medicine A model of a human body or body part.
1. Resembling, characteristic of, or being a phantom: tales of a phantom ship haunting the bay.
2. Fictitious or nonexistent, often when intended to deceive: phantom employees on the payroll; deposits in a phantom bank account.
3. Believed to be real even though illusory: a phantom pregnancy.
4. Being a phantom limb: a phantom arm.
[Middle English fantom, from Old French fantosme, probably from Vulgar Latin *phantauma, from Greek dialectal *phantagma, from Greek phantasma; see PHANTASM.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.