nu·​mi·​nous | \ ˈnü-mə-nəs How to pronounce numinous (audio) , ˈnyü- \

Definition of numinous

2 : filled with a sense of the presence of divinity : holy
3 : appealing to the higher emotions or to the aesthetic sense : spiritual

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Other Words from numinous

numinousness \ ˈnü-​mə-​nəs-​nəs How to pronounce numinousness (audio) , ˈnyü-​ \ noun

Synonyms for numinous


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Numinous and Supernatural

Numinous is from the Latin word numen, meaning "divine will" or "nod" (it suggests a figurative nodding, 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." We began using numinous in the mid-1600s, subsequently endowing it with several senses: "supernatural" or "mysterious" (as in "possessed of a numinous energy force"), "holy" (as in "the numinous atmosphere of the catacombs"), and "appealing to the aesthetic sense" (as in "the numinous nuances of her art"). We also created 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 The music in Stardew Valley can feel buoyant, melancholy, or numinous—sometimes all three at once. Nate Anderson, Ars Technica, "The one video game my kids played all year long," 30 Dec. 2019 Other cathedrals have dreamed up even more eccentric ways to make use of the vast, numinous spaces under their control. The Economist, "The root of all fun Cash-strapped English cathedrals become temples of enjoyment," 10 Oct. 2019 Certain years acquire an almost numinous quality in collective memory—1789, 1861, 1914. The New York Review of Books, "Jackson Lears," 7 Feb. 2019 The falling from the sky of ice crystals is the product of natural rules; but numinous causes and compossibilities now suggested themselves. Joseph O’neill, The New Yorker, "The First World," 21 June 2018 As Lepage maps out his family’s unit and those of each of his neighbors, the building springs to numinous life, seeming to contain not just its tenants but multitudes, a cross-section of Quebec and of humanity, the cosmos in microcosm. Lily Janiak, San Francisco Chronicle, "In the memory palace of Robert Lepage’s ‘887,’ there are many mansions," 5 May 2018 Its outside is battered and crusty, but the inside shines numinous in gold leaf. Sharon Mizota,, "Sweat lodge, Audre Lorde, magical holograms: Three stellar art shows that pull you to another place," 10 Mar. 2018 In remedying that, Kurlander offers a strikingly different and deeply disturbing perspective on the rise and subsequent trajectory of the Third Reich, and, most unsettling of all, on the numinous appeal of its Führer. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "The Nazis’ Supernatural Obsession," 23 Sep. 2017 Closer in spirit to the work of the naturalist Rick Bass than to the hard-drinking tales of Caroline Knapp or Augusten Burroughs, the book becomes a personal travelogue of the Orkneys, their numinous geology and mystical history. New York Times, "10 New Books We Recommend This Week," 4 May 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'numinous.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of numinous

1647, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for numinous

Latin numin-, numen numen

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Time Traveler for numinous

Time Traveler

The first known use of numinous was in 1647

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Last Updated

10 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Numinous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for numinous


How to pronounce numinous (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of numinous

formal + literary : having a mysterious, holy, or spiritual quality

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