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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from numinous

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

Synonyms for numinous


magic, magical, mystic, occult, weird

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

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 There’s a place among the numinous for the right kind of mortal, and Rupert makes a tentative, if ugly, living here and on the edges of Kuala Lumpur’s underworld. New York Times, "Ghosts, Warring Gods and the Apocalypse: The Best of New Science Fiction and Fantasy," 18 May 2017 The music demonstrated Byrne’s facility in different genres, and included elements of pop, jazz, and reggae, though Timbers likened its predominant mood to the numinous Nordic rock of the band Sigur Rós. Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, "A Protest Musical for the Trump Era," 20 Mar. 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.

See More

First Known Use of numinous

1647, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for numinous

Latin numin-, numen numen

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about numinous

Listen to Our Podcast about numinous

Statistics for numinous

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for numinous

The first known use of numinous was in 1647

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for numinous



English Language Learners Definition of numinous

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on numinous

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with numinous

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for numinous

Nglish: Translation of numinous for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about numinous

Comments on numinous

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


to fake an opponent out of position

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Where in the World? A Quiz

  • peter bruegel tower of babel painting
  • What language does pajama come from?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!