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 preternaturally (audio) , -​ˈnach-​rə-​ , -​ˈna-​chər-​ , pre-​ \ adverb
preternaturalness \ ˌprē-​tər-​ˈna-​chə-​rəl-​nəs How to pronounce preternaturalness (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 His Mason was an all-American defender with a square jaw, easy confidence and a preternatural command of the courtroom. Judy Berman, Time, "Cops Is History, Long Live the Detective Show," 11 June 2020 And yet Americans have reacted to the drove of presumptive, quasi, and faux billionaires as if preternatural wealth were a credential of some kind. Marilynne Robinson, The New York Review of Books, "What Kind of Country Do We Want?," 27 May 2020 The talkative wheel is a major factor in the Type R's preternatural ability to turn any road into a racetrack. Eric Stafford, Car and Driver, "The Revised 2020 Honda Civic Type R Is a Deliriously Terrific Escape for Driving Enthusiasts," 21 May 2020 With his preternatural ability for annoying absolutely everyone, Andy Warhol even managed to play a minor role in fomenting the Iranian revolution. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction: The Torturer Weeps for His Sins," 17 Apr. 2020 Rooney has her detractors, many of whom seem more irritated by her preternatural success than by her actual work. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "How TV Romance Got Radical," 30 Apr. 2020 There is no single running mate who can emerge, like Wonder Woman, with the preternatural power to enhance black and Latino turnout, reach out to hardcore Sanders supporters, and appeal to wavering Republican voters in the Midwest. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, "Who Will Be Joe Biden’s Pick for Vice President?," 27 Apr. 2020 On the one hand, Tagovailoa displayed a preternatural ability to make the kind of anticipatory throws rarely seen at the college level. Rainer Sabin, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Lions may always wish they picked Tua Tagovailoa in 2020 NFL draft," 24 Apr. 2020 None require preternatural reflexes, especially powerful machines, a strong stomach or a tolerance for suffering hundreds of defeats at the hands of other players before the fun kicks in. Seth Schiesel, New York Times, "For the Uninitiated and Bored, an Introduction to the World of Gaming," 1 Apr. 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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Time Traveler for preternatural

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The first known use of preternatural was in 1580

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Last Updated

24 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Preternatural.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Jul. 2020.

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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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