Is “Fantastical” a Word?

Fantasy illustration with dinosaurs and a castle. Used under Creative Commons.

It actually is a word. It means, depending upon where you look, something along the lines of seeming more appropriate to a fairy tale than to reality. Every now and again, I stumble across an image, either a photo or a work of art, sometimes that’s completely fantasy or speculative, or sometimes a photograph that artfully twists the light as it captures its subject, that causes my mind to spring into the “what-ifs?” What if…that were a girl teleporting? An alien hovering above the ground in a globe? A man who can breathe fire? All of the things that we read about as being beyond the realm of reality, that we refuse to believe in on the surface, yet thrill at reading or watching on a weekend.

Sometimes I read a book that takes me to that place, an inventive way to take on a genre or two and meld them together. These books have the same effect.

And, honestly, sometimes it isn’t even about whether or not the novel or painting or photograph is of some stunning degree of excellence I’ve never encountered before. While they have to be subjectively good to take me to that place, they don’t have to be the best…just imaginative.

That, to me, is the fantastical. I cling to those moments of the fantastical because they take me out of the rational, the technological, the gravity-bound rules and parameters of daily life, which can sometimes sink to doldrums, and take me away to a different galaxy, a different dimension, with different people. That, in turn, inspires me to write different galaxies and dimensions and people in the hopes of saying something important.

I hope that you have a great weekend, and that you find ways to achieve some sort of imaginative escape velocity to launch yourself beyond the day-to-day and into a place that will feed you with the fantastical.

Image attribution: RL Fantasy Studio under Creative Commons.


  1. fantastical is not a word it is Urban slang. unfortunately I read it more and more and print isn’t it ironic, the people think fantastical is a word. the same people think ironical Is a word as well. now that’s ironic.

  2. fantastical is not a word it is Urban slang. unfortunately I read it more and more and print isn’t it ironic, the people think fantastical is a word. the same people think ironical Is a word as well. now that’s ironic.

  3. someone wanted to make a statement, but did not like the word fantastic, so they made up a new “word.”

  4. You can thank Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.” The sea witch used the term and it was the first time I’d ever heard it. IT IS NOT A WORD!!! “Fantastic” is already an adjective, jeez. Just as bad as “irregardless.”

    1. It’s a word that has appeared in dictionaries for over 100 years. Perhaps broaden your reference materials beyond animated movies? ????

  5. I agree! It’s never been a word, and it bothers me almost as much as irregardless. Almost.

  6. I love the comments that I get on this post…thank you all so much! For the record, Oxford and Merriam-Webster both include “fantastical” (as an un-common variant of “fantastic”).

    1. Dictionaries list uncommon variants so that the rest of us can understand what the uneducated peasants are trying to say. 🙂

  7. Im with you people Fantastical is not a word has never been a word and will never be a word.

    1. Best comment by DV… really drives this word silliness home! However, in defense of our dawning ‘New Age,’ I can see where people are innately redirecting language to conform with ‘feeling’. Interesting, isn’t it?

      1. Sort of like jazz, right? Improvisational. As much of a purist as I like to be about language, it does evolve.

  8. everyone commenting is so outraged for no reason….the dictionary includes the word, find something else to cry about

  9. If it’s good enough for Shakespeare, it’s good enough for me. Included in Macbeth, the line “Are ye fantastical?”

    1. Indeed it is. Of course, I’ve heard the fluidity of language argued to justify text message abbreviations in written communication, also, which I find nonsensical.

  10. This is terrific! I stumbled upon this while trying to discern if I should use the word “fantastical” in a critical essay, to describe a speculative element in a children’s novel. Saying “fantastic element” connotes the wrong thing, as we commonly use fantastic to mean terrific. In this case, I believe fantastical has come to mean “of fantasy”. Hopefully no one in this forum will be the one reviewing my stupidical essay…

  11. Shakespeare uses the word fantastical several times not just in Macbeth. Twelfth Night in the first scene with the Duke, Love’s Labour’s Lost, and others…..

  12. According to, fantastical was in their 1913 edition. And, if Shakespeare used it all the way back then, I, as an editor, agree that it’s a word—officially. Just because a word’s fallen out of use and people decide to or are beginning to use it again, doesn’t make it any less of a word.

  13. I find it disconcerting that someone who doesn’t know they need to put an apostrophe in ‘I’m’, (to describe themselves,) and who thinks Im is acceptable, believes that fantastical is not a word and that ‘they hate it!’ Please read a dictionary. You’ll find it is, in fact, a word, and a good one when used correctly. A lot of hating and temper tantrums here. Shame, it’s a lovely article and I enjoyed it.

  14. I stumbled on this article and then read all 21 comments. Some made me laugh out loud. I was going to say that it was all very comical but paused. Maybe I should say I found it all very comic.

  15. 11 years on, let’s look again… Yes, fantastical is not only a word but a useful word. Comparisons to “ironical” and the like are missing the mark. The question to be asked is whether the word is merely duplicating an existing word, making it redundant. While it seems fantastic and fantastical have been used somewhat interchangeably in the past, fantastic has since lost its meaning through colloquial overuse. It has been swallowed by that black hole of colloquial superlatives that seems ever in need of more feeding, devouring useful words and transforming them, Borg-like, into synonyms of “cool.” With this constant loss of adjectives to this black hole, we need replacements. Fantastical serves well, especially as it already exists. So off goes “fantastic” to join the dreary and indistinguishable minions of cool, awesome, brilliant, great, etc. We still have fantastical to describe things that are entirely based on fantasy rather than reality.

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