Definition of phantom in English:



  • 1A ghost.

    ‘a phantom who haunts lonely roads’
    [as modifier] ‘a phantom ship’
    • ‘Gerry and Cynthia Bridgwood are being spooked by a phantom benefactor - who spirits gifts of bric-a-brac into their Cheshire country pub.’
    • ‘This time out, the author collects some chilling accounts of coal mine ghosts, phantoms.’
    • ‘Four fearless women are preparing to spend the night in the company of ghosts, ghouls and phantoms to raise money for the Abbeyfield care home where they work.’
    • ‘Strange phantoms haunt this room day and night.’
    • ‘It is like a medieval, deserted castle that is full of phantoms and ghosts, and this makes you feel sick - you just want to run away, far from these cold, scary walls.’
    • ‘He was crying out to ghost pedestrians, phantoms incapable of reacting in any other way but unbridled fear.’
    • ‘A few years later, two more British sailors saw the phantom ship as they sailed around the cape.’
    • ‘Then, in a room filled with Halloween images of ghosts and phantoms, Duncan Smith got his chance to show his hidden talents - at the pool table.’
    • ‘The experienced earth lends something of its atmosphere to every world that we can conceive, and hence haunts these other worlds like a phantom.’
    • ‘She was haunting him, like a phantom in the night.’
    • ‘Cigarette smoked choked the fresh, crisp night air like a phantom descending upon its haunt.’
    • ‘His face is distorted, making him look like a phantom haunting a ruin.’
    • ‘But the phantoms of the evil ones haunted this particular hallway on Floor 13, making it an abandoned site.’
    • ‘Loosely based on an old Montreal myth about a phantom ship and a shadowy captain (according to the poorly translated English press release), the maze is made up of five connected game zones.’
    • ‘The Han Wei became a phantom ship after pirates seized it on March 15 on a voyage from Singapore to Rangoon.’
    • ‘Science is first and foremost a recognition that the objective world of nature is comprehensible on its own terms, without recourse to phantoms, spirits or inexplicable forces.’
    • ‘Lanser Hall was one of the oldest dorms and laboratories on campus and hadn't been used due to the rumor of a phantom that haunted them.’
    • ‘The State Tourist Department can arrange for a sightseeing trip for the female ghost of the old city and phantoms in Banjara Hills.’
    • ‘The young man in question slowly emerged form the pitch-black shadows of the closet as eerily as a phantom.’
    • ‘Creoles speak of a phantom pirate ship seen at night, lit by flickering lanterns.’
    ghost, apparition, spirit, spectre, wraith, shadow
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    1. 1.1A figment of the imagination.
      ‘he tried to clear the phantoms from his head and grasp reality’
      • ‘As we said before, the brand is a phantom, a cypher, figments of the popular imagination that have somehow become the essential conduit for cultural information about objects.’
      • ‘It was total voyeurism, and several people who were on the show had trouble afterwards adjusting to the fact that their fame was illusory - a deceiving phantom.’
      • ‘While his mind had been pursuing its intangible phantoms and turning in irresolution from such pursuit he had heard about him the constant voices of his father and of his masters, urging him to be a gentleman above all things.’
      • ‘But, alas, like all conjured foes, the biblical piety contained in his book is a mere phantom of the real thing.’
      • ‘At long last, when each felt assured that the other was real, and not some phantom of imagination, their lips parted.’
      • ‘The Tory revival is a phantom, the imagined product of a media despairing of another utterly predictable election result.’
      • ‘I said in my previous letter that I felt that somewhere, in the deep recesses of his mind, there may be the merest phantom of a thought that I might be right.’
      figment of the imagination, delusion, hallucination, illusion, chimera, vision, fantasy, mirage
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    2. 1.2[as modifier]Not real; illusory.
      ‘a phantom conspiracy’
      [as modifier] ‘the women suffered from phantom pain that no physician could ever find’
      • ‘Still considered somewhat of a phantom disease in some circles, fibromyalgia is very real for the people with the condition, which causes fatigue as well as musculoskeletal aches and stiffness.’
      • ‘Computer-generated graphics for the ghostly, phantom towers - the most radical suggestion to date - will be considered by council officials tomorrow.’
      • ‘Some experts describe it as a phantom sensation, like ‘pain’ in an amputated limb.’
      • ‘Then, the first thing that I do think about is how much my foot and the phantom pain is throbbing.’
      • ‘Acknowledging a patient's perception of a phantom shock as a real experience promotes continuing communication and fosters a trusting relationship.’
      • ‘And some of phantom projects attached to the supposed main one are getting more money than it is…’
      • ‘Yet she had grown immune to the troubling memories and phantom pain the sight or thought of those scars usually caused; Cypress was too engrossed in her painting.’
      • ‘In addition, 71% of these patients also experienced phantom pain postamputation.’
      • ‘Treatments for phantom pain may involve medications or other therapies.’
      • ‘Immediately upon waking from surgery he recalled experiencing phantom pain.’
      • ‘One year after surgery, the intervention group demonstrated dramatic reductions in phantom limb pain, stump pain and phantom sensation when compared with the control group.’
      • ‘I not only had to deal with the pain of the stumps on my feet, but also the phantom pain that was terrible sometimes.’
      • ‘The phantom tumor caused her excruciating pain until her therapy showed her that she didn't have to punish herself for being wronged.’
      • ‘My stomach growls and hunger pangs, almost worse than the pains in my arms, legs, and face, lacerate through my body, disrupting the numbness in my growth strips and sending phantom burnings through my non-existent wings.’
      • ‘It vivifies poetry, which might otherwise be reduced to a mere ‘language of ideas’ - ‘a phantom language, lacking in the substance of worldly things’.’
      • ‘Sometimes this can lead to the unclenching of a previously clenched, painful phantom, suggesting a promising new therapeutic approach for phantom pain.’
      • ‘There is a central nervous system pathway malfunction found in fibromyalgia, phantom pain, or psychiatric problems.’
      • ‘The phantom pain is still there, haunting me with every step I take.’
      • ‘For if there can be phantom pains in the hand, then a pain cannot be ontologically dependent on one's actual hand.’
      • ‘She could feel the phantom pains from long gone bruises and cuts she had once received, but knew the scars in her soul would never heal.’
      intangible, impalpable, indefinable, indescribable, vague, obscure, unclear, indistinct
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    3. 1.3[as modifier]Denoting a financial arrangement or transaction which has been invented for fraudulent purposes.
      ‘he diverted an estimated £1,500,000 into ‘phantom’ bank accounts’
      • ‘He also swore a financial statement, which indicated that he had phantom stock units and stock options.’
      • ‘The only difference is that when you deal in phantom money, you also earn phantom profits, but imagine the new horizons this experience must have opened up for many a team member.’
      • ‘Like stock options, phantom stock must be expensed throughout its vesting period.’
      • ‘But there's an easier way to avoid phantom interest that will also provide you with some financial security.’
      • ‘This problem of built-in gains is related to another phenomenon: phantom year-end income.’
      • ‘A common practice in retailing mined diamond jewelry is to use phantom prices and then show impressive discounts in an effort to lure buyers.’


Middle English (also in the sense ‘illusion, delusion’): from Old French fantosme, based on Greek phantasma (see phantasm).