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adjective un·can·ny \ˌən-ˈka-nē\

Simple Definition of uncanny

  • : strange or unusual in a way that is surprising or difficult to understand

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of uncanny

  1. 1 a :  seeming to have a supernatural character or origin :  eerie, mysterious b :  being beyond what is normal or expected :  suggesting superhuman or supernatural powers <an uncanny sense of direction>

  2. 2 chiefly Scottish :  severe, punishing

uncannily play \-ˈka-nə-lē\ adverb
uncanniness play \-ˈka-nē-nəs\ noun

Examples of uncanny in a sentence

  1. I was struck by his uncanny ability to communicate arcane, complex economic policy and by his punk-rock instinct to question the status quo. —Bono, Time, 18 Apr. 2005

  2. To an economist, the 1990s bear an uncanny resemblance to two earlier decades: the 1920s in the United States and the 1980s in Japan. In all three decades, technological change produced extraordinary economic growth, leading to talk of a “new era” and triggering a bull market in stocks that terminated in a market collapse—widely regarded as the bursting of a speculative bubble. —Milton Friedman, Wall Street Journal, 22 Jan. 2002

  3. As he approached quite close to the enclosure he saw an excited group surrounding the two fugitives, who, trembling with fright and exhaustion, were scarce able to recount the uncanny details of their adventure. —Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes, 1914

  4. She could not teach herself to think favourably of Pansy, whose absence of initiative, of conversation, of personal claims, seemed to her, in a girl of twenty, unnatural and even uncanny. —Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady, 1881

  5. She had an uncanny resemblance to someone I had seen before.

  6. She has an uncanny sense of direction.

  7. an uncanny ability to predict the weather

Did You Know?

Weird and eerie are synonyms of uncanny, but there are subtle differences in the meanings of the three words. Weird may be used to describe something that is generally strange or out of the ordinary. Eerie suggests an uneasy or fearful consciousness that some kind of mysterious and malign powers are at work, while uncanny, which debuted in the 18th century, implies disquieting strangeness or mysteriousness. English also has a word canny, but canny and uncanny should not be interpreted as opposites. Canny, which first appeared in English in the 16th century, means "clever," "shrewd" or "prudent," as in "a canny lawyer" or "a canny investment."


First Known Use of uncanny


Synonym Discussion of uncanny

weird, eerie, uncanny mean mysteriously strange or fantastic. weird may imply an unearthly or supernatural strangeness or it may stress queerness or oddness <weird creatures from another world>. eerie suggests an uneasy or fearful consciousness that mysterious and malign powers are at work <an eerie calm preceded the bombing raid>. uncanny implies disquieting strangeness or mysteriousness <an uncanny resemblance between total strangers>.

Rhymes with uncanny

UNCANNY Defined for Kids


adjective un·can·ny \ˌən-ˈka-nē\

Definition of uncanny for Students

  1. 1 :  strange or unusual in a way that is surprising or mysterious <an uncanny resemblance>

  2. 2 :  suggesting powers or abilities greater than normal <an uncanny sense of direction>

uncannily \-ˈka-nə-lē\ adverb <They look uncannily similar.>

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up uncanny? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to manage or play awkwardly

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