Definition of preternatural
- wits trained to preternatural acuteness by the debates
- —G. L. Dickinson
- preternatural phenomena
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She has a preternatural ability to charm people.
There was a preternatural quiet in the house.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'preternatural.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Preternatural derives from the Latin praeter naturam, which means "beyond nature." In the 1200s, Medieval Latin scholars rendered the term as "praeternaturalis," and that form inspired the modern English version. Unusual things are sometimes considered positive and sometimes negative, and throughout its history "preternatural" has been used to refer to both exceptionally good things and unnaturally evil ones. In its earliest documented uses in the 1500s, it tended to emphasize the strange, ominous, or foreboding, but by the 1700s, people were using it more benignly to refer to fascinating supernatural (or even heavenly) phenomena. Nowadays, people even use it to describe the remarkable abilities of exceptional humans.
: very unusual in a way that does not seem natural
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