pre·​ter·​nat·​u·​ral ˌprē-tər-ˈna-chə-rəl How to pronounce preternatural (audio)
: existing outside of nature
: exceeding what is natural or regular : extraordinary
wits trained to preternatural acuteness by the debatesG. L. Dickinson
: inexplicable by ordinary means
especially : psychic
preternatural phenomena
ˌprē-tər-ˈna-chə-rə-lē How to pronounce preternatural (audio)
preternaturalness noun

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Preternatural derives from the Latin phrase praeter naturam, which means "beyond nature." 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 regularly use it to describe the remarkable abilities of exceptional humans.

Examples of preternatural in a Sentence

She has a preternatural ability to charm people. There was a preternatural quiet in the house.
Recent Examples on the Web Infused with Doherty’s preternatural fire, Brenda became a moody brat, yes, but also an earnest romantic who channeled her overabundance of feelings into a love affair with theater. Judy Berman, TIME, 14 July 2024 Witt’s preternatural connection to Longlegs and its writer-director continued throughout filming. Jack Smart, Peoplemag, 12 July 2024 No one combined his magnificent power, dazzling speed, supernatural arm, preternatural intuition and flair for melodrama. Gary Peterson, The Mercury News, 19 June 2024 In a different cycle, brains and rationality might prevail over preternatural athleticism, as when the hyperanalytical Yul Kwon beat Ozzy Lusth in Survivor: Cook Islands despite the latter being one of the most physically dominant players of all time. Mark Harris, Vulture, 4 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for preternatural 

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

Word History


Medieval Latin praeternaturalis, from Latin praeter naturam beyond nature

First Known Use

1580, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of preternatural was in 1580


Dictionary Entries Near preternatural

Cite this Entry

“Preternatural.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


pre·​ter·​nat·​u·​ral ˌprēt-ər-ˈnach(-ə)-rəl How to pronounce preternatural (audio)
: beyond what is natural : unable to be explained by ordinary means
-ˈnach(-ə)-rə-lē How to pronounce preternatural (audio)
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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