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A learned variant of phantom; from Middle English fantosme, from Old French fantosme, fantasme, from Latin phantasma, from Ancient Greek φάντασμα (phántasma). Doublet of phantom.


  • IPA(key): /ˈfæntæzəm/
  • Hyphenation: phan‧tasm


phantasm (plural phantasms)

  1. Something seen but having no physical reality; a phantom or apparition.
    • 1837, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], “Success”, in Ethel Churchill: Or, The Two Brides. [], volume II, London: Henry Colburn, [], →OCLC, page 75:
      But night comes in with a more genial spirit: we have done our worst and our bitterest; and we need a small space to indulge any little bit of cordiality that may be left in us. A thousand gay phantasms float in on the sunny south, which has left the far-off vineyards of its birth.
    • 1900, Sigmund Freud, translated by James Strachey, The Interpretation of Dreams: Avon Books, page 74:
      He declares that there seems to be no justification for regarding the phantasms of dreams as pure hallucinations; most dream-images are probably in fact illusions, since they arise from faint sense-impressions, which never cease during sleep.
  2. (philosophy) A impression as received by the senses, especially an image, often prior to any interpretation by the intellect.
    Synonym: (less common) phantasia
    • 1932, Sr. Mary Anastasia Coady, The Phantasm According to the Teaching of St. Thomas:
      When abstracted from the phantasm by the intellectus agens the species effects a modification in the intellectus possibilis which modification is called the species intelligibilis impressa. Actualized by the species impressa the intellectus  []
    • 1988, Bernard J. F. Lonergan, Frederick E. Crowe, Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas, University of Toronto Press, →ISBN, page 38:
      Again, in a sense, the act of understanding as an insight into phantasm is knowledge of form: but the form so known does not correspond to the philosophic concept of form; “insight is to phantasm as form is to matter;  []
    • 2013 April 15, Andrew J. Mitchell, Sam Slote, Derrida and Joyce: Texts and Contexts, SUNY Press, →ISBN, page 166:
       [] schematic way the essential characteristics of the phantasm in Derrida so that we can then see how Derrida's analysis of the phantasm of the mother (or of maternity) at once contributes to and displaces this configuration.

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