One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A toy consisting of a disc or drum with figures representing a moving object in successive positions arranged radially on it, to be viewed in such a way (e.g., through a fixed slit) that the persistence of the successive visual images produces the impression of actual motion when the disc or drum is rapidly rotated.
Mid 19th century; earliest use found in The Edinburgh Review. From Hellenistic Greek ϕενακιστής cheat, impostor (from ancient Greek ϕενακίζειν to cheat, trick + -τής, suffix forming agent nouns) + -o- + -scope, apparently after French phénakisticope.
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