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

Did you know?

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.

Example Sentences

She has a preternatural ability to charm people. There was a preternatural quiet in the house.
Recent Examples on the Web Those doubts, along with more personal ones, fueled 2021’s Impostor EP, an interrogation of the many facets of impostor syndrome that showcased Sohn’s strengthening songwriting skills and their preternatural talent for crafting killer guitar riffs and mesmerizing guitar tones. Jon Blistein, Rolling Stone, 15 Feb. 2023 With preternatural calm, and an incredible second-half performance by quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Pederson’s Jaguars rallied for a 31-30 victory and a date with Reid’s Chiefs in the divisional round Saturday in Kansas City. Kaylee Remington, cleveland, 21 Jan. 2023 Despite Greene’s preternatural talent for attracting attention, her obscurity in the political world worked to her benefit in the early months, when her principal competition in the Sixth District’s Republican field was its former congresswoman, Karen Handel. Robert Draper, New York Times, 17 Oct. 2022 But the most impressive thing about Jury Duty is its casting of Ronald, a guy who has an almost preternatural level of patience and faith in humanity. Ej Dickson, Rolling Stone, 2 May 2023 Floral explosions in Barbie pink, preternatural purple, wedding dress white and sunrise yellow drift from branches above every block. Joe Heim, Washington Post, 21 Apr. 2023 But, the almost whispery voice and preternatural calm on display when Carl is on-camera turns instantly into a passive-aggressive control mechanism when the red light turns off. Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, 5 Apr. 2023 Her preternatural confidence, and an unshakable sense of belonging, were there from the very beginning. Jazmine Hughes, New York Times, 28 Sep. 2022 Vandersloot’s court sense appeared almost preternatural, flinging full-court bombs and scooping no-look passes past unsuspecting opponents. Julia Poe, Chicago Tribune, 31 Jan. 2023 See More

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 5 Jun. 2023.

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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