pre·​ter·​nat·​u·​ral | \ ˌprē-tər-ˈna-chə-rəl How to pronounce preternatural (audio) , -ˈnach-rəl, pre- \

Definition of preternatural

1 : existing outside of nature
2 : exceeding what is natural or regular : extraordinary wits trained to preternatural acuteness by the debates— G. L. Dickinson
3 : inexplicable by ordinary means especially : psychic preternatural phenomena

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Other Words from preternatural

preternaturally \ ˌprē-​tər-​ˈna-​chə-​rə-​lē How to pronounce preternatural (audio) , -​ˈnach-​rə-​ , -​ˈna-​chər-​ , pre-​ \ adverb
preternaturalness \ ˌprē-​tər-​ˈna-​chə-​rəl-​nəs How to pronounce preternatural (audio) , -​ˈnach-​rəl-​ , pre-​ \ noun

Did You Know?

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.

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 Fans shared their favorite clips on social media of his preternatural athletic abilities. Terrence Mccoy, Washington Post, "Diego Maradona became a global celebrity as a soccer player. But the world remembers him as more.," 25 Nov. 2020 That a nurse’s job requires an almost preternatural sense of moral obligation goes effectively unsaid; Laura’s extraordinary ability (if not outright desire) to absorb pain is largely unexamined. Pete Tosiello, Washington Post, "Emma Glass’s ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ powerfully describes what it means to be a health-care worker," 2 Dec. 2020 The community has helped the family at its toughest points, even through COVID, leaving supplies on their doorstep and showing a preternatural sense for what the family needs, sending help through an Amazon list. James Whitlow,, "Edgewood families gifted turkey dinners days before Thanksgiving," 24 Nov. 2020 But WeWork quickly took off, thanks to Neumann’s preternatural ability to charm flush investors and those same investors’ slavering to find the next Uber or Amazon. J.c. Pan, The New Republic, "How WeWork Got Away With Spectacular Failure," 24 Nov. 2020 Haliburton is seen as one of the safest bets in the draft to return value, with the type of preternatural feel and passing ability that should keep him in the NBA for a long time, and an unusual degree of selflessness to his game. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Mock drafts take a shot at where Wisconsinite Tyrese Haliburton will get drafted," 9 Nov. 2020 The world’s grandest players—or, the ones in movies and television shows, at least—possess something preternatural. Angela Watercutter, Wired, "Why The Queen’s Gambit Is the No. 1 Netflix Show Right Now," 28 Oct. 2020 Anyway, the millennials, with their preternatural mastery of each new app, are already impatiently reaching at us with the hook from offstage. Karl Taro Greenfeld, Town & Country, "Are We the Next Lost Generation?," 6 Oct. 2020 By the time of concert tour reunions in 2004 and 2007, his preternatural accuracy was nearly gone. Will Collier, National Review, "The Virtuosity and Creativity of Van Halen," 7 Oct. 2020

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.

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First Known Use of preternatural

1580, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for preternatural

Medieval Latin praeternaturalis, from Latin praeter naturam beyond nature

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The first known use of preternatural was in 1580

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Last Updated

21 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Preternatural.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jan. 2021.

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How to pronounce preternatural (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of preternatural

formal : very unusual in a way that does not seem natural

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