pre·​ter·​nat·​u·​ral | \ ˌprē-tər-ˈna-chə-rəl, -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 , -​ˈnach-​rə-​, -​ˈna-​chər-​, pre-​ \ adverb
preternaturalness \ ˌprē-​tər-​ˈna-​chə-​rəl-​nəs , -​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

Just as important were his son’s preternatural marketing skills and always-be-closing competitive hustle. Susanne Craig, The Seattle Times, "Trump engaged in suspect tax schemes as he reaped riches from father," 2 Oct. 2018 But her preternatural intelligence and subtlety as an actress are wasted on a character who never stops shouting her hang-ups from the rooftops. Justin Chang,, "'Boundaries' takes the road all too quirkily traveled," 21 June 2018 Reagan, the preternatural optimist, may have had difficulty fathoming tragedy, but no one knows why Hobbs is shot. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "What happened to coal," 21 Aug. 2018 Tazewell is aware of the fact that Summer was an unrivaled superstar with an almost preternatural ability to pull off dramatic looks. Rachel Hahn, Vogue, "How the Donna Summer Musical’s Groovy Disco Costumes Came Together," 23 May 2018 Even so, a young Cardinals executive never forgot Beltrán’s preternatural fortnight in October 2004. Ben Reiter,, "Why Carlos Beltrán Was the Perfect Addition to Aid the Astros' Journey to the World Series," 9 July 2018 Scouts spoke about a kid with quick feet, an athletic family history, and a preternatural intelligence for the game. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "The World Cup’s Breakout Star: Kylian Mbappé," 1 July 2018 Its benefits are mostly preventative so, understandably, my skin didn’t take on a preternatural glow. Deanna Pai, Bon Appetit, "Moon Juice Founder Amanda Chantal Bacon Has a New Beauty Line and, Fine, I'm Into It," 25 June 2018 Bazzi, who possesses the preternatural confidence common to people who get famous young, moved to Los Angeles with his father to finish high school and get famous, not necessarily in that order. Allison Stewart,, "Andrew Bazzi went from Vine to viral," 20 June 2018

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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Last Updated

20 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for preternatural

The first known use of preternatural was in 1580

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English Language Learners Definition of preternatural

: very unusual in a way that does not seem natural

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a complex dispute or argument

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