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 numinous (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 María Elena moved through a world that was haunted by spirits, numinous presences who could give comfort and advice or demand sacrifice and appeasement. New York Times, "He Wants to Save Classics From Whiteness. Can the Field Survive?," 2 Feb. 2021 His fascination with a numinous world that may not mean anything at all: that’s his equivalent of Balzac’s greedy-eyed fascination with money. Michael Gorra, The New York Review of Books, "The Sense of an Ending," 17 Nov. 2020 Many fuse the observational practices of cinéma vérité with the more active mode of interviewing; some use numinous close-ups in sequences of visual ambiguity to supplement more conventional exposition. Phoebe Chen, The New York Review of Books, "The Films of Women’s Liberation," 27 June 2020 The former receive all the press and relate to the feeling of an overwhelming presence, something numinous, divine. Christof Koch, Scientific American, "What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about the Brain," 19 May 2020 And this, too, was a play that memorably made room for the numinous, the inexplicable. Ben Brantley, New York Times, "Off Broadway’s Season Shook Up Norms of Life and Theater," 6 Apr. 2020 Ecstatic or even numinous encounters at the edges of the earth. Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker, "Survivor’s Guilt in the Mountains," 24 Feb. 2020 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

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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Cite this Entry

“Numinous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 May. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of numinous

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

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