nu·​mi·​nous ˈnü-mə-nəs How to pronounce numinous (audio)
: filled with a sense of the presence of divinity : holy
: appealing to the higher emotions or to the aesthetic sense : spiritual
numinousness noun

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Numinous and Supernatural

Numinous is from the Latin word numen, meaning "nod of the head" or "divine will" (the latter sense suggesting a figurative nod, of assent or of command, of the divine head). English speakers have been using numen for centuries with the meaning "a spiritual force or influence." The meanings of the adjective include "supernatural" or "mysterious" (as in "possessed of a numinous energy force"), "holy" ("the numinous atmosphere of the catacombs"), and "appealing to the aesthetic sense" ("the numinous nuances of her art"). There are also the nouns numinousness and numinosity, although these are rare.

Examples of numinous in a Sentence

Her poetry is filled with a numinous beauty. some have sensed a numinous energy in the landscape around Sedona, Arizona
Recent Examples on the Web Buddy Holly’s puppy love malt shop rock n’ roll repurposed for this numinous oath. Jeff Weiss, Spin, 21 Aug. 2023 The filmmaker’s signal accomplishment is to reveal Gia’s experiences, at civic and intimate levels, with friends and with strangers, as the numinous stuff of her inner life. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 13 July 2023 Whereas some fantasists use magic as a deus ex machina which transforms their narrative into farce in short order, at his point a little numinous wonder would do the characters of the A Song of Ice and Fire a world of good. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 8 June 2011 As Greenberg was pondering this numinous feeling, someone tapped him on the shoulder and interrupted his reverie. Gabe Allen, Discover Magazine, 19 Apr. 2022 The seventh-century Dome of the Rock now encloses the likeliest site of this transcendent physical link between the earthly and the numinous, which is also the spot where Muslims believe Muhammad ascended to heaven. Armin Rosen, WSJ, 17 Nov. 2022 In the living room, Solomun recalled numinous moments from recent performances. Ed Caesar, The New Yorker, 26 Sep. 2022 The fruit in those same kitchens looked numinous in the morning light. Sebastian Smee, Washington Post, 15 Sep. 2022 The creaky Romantic fantasy of the numinous artist, isolated from mundane labors, turning her back on the modern world to get in touch with higher truths, is on display. Los Angeles Times, 13 June 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'numinous.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin numin-, numen numen

First Known Use

1647, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of numinous was in 1647


Dictionary Entries Near numinous

Cite this Entry

“Numinous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Sep. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on numinous

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