un·can·ny | \ ˌən-ˈka-nē \
uncannier; uncanniest

Definition of uncanny 

1a : seeming to have a supernatural character or origin : eerie, mysterious

b : being beyond what is normal or expected : suggesting superhuman or supernatural powers an uncanny sense of direction

2 chiefly Scotland : severe, punishing

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Other words from uncanny

uncannily \ˌən-ˈka-nə-lē \ adverb
uncanniness \ˌən-ˈka-nē-nəs \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for uncanny

weird, eerie, uncanny mean mysteriously strange or fantastic. weird may imply an unearthly or supernatural strangeness or it may stress queerness or oddness. weird creatures from another world eerie suggests an uneasy or fearful consciousness that mysterious and malign powers are at work. an eerie calm preceded the bombing raid uncanny implies disquieting strangeness or mysteriousness. an uncanny resemblance between total strangers

Did You Know?

Weird and eerie are synonyms of uncanny, but there are subtle differences in the meanings of the three words. Weird may be used to describe something that is generally strange or out of the ordinary. Eerie suggests an uneasy or fearful consciousness that some kind of mysterious and malign powers are at work, while uncanny, which debuted in the 18th century, implies disquieting strangeness or mysteriousness. English also has a word canny, but canny and uncanny should not be interpreted as opposites. Canny, which first appeared in English in the 16th century, means "clever," "shrewd" or "prudent," as in "a canny lawyer" or "a canny investment."

Examples of uncanny in a Sentence

I was struck by his uncanny ability to communicate arcane, complex economic policy and by his punk-rock instinct to question the status quo. —Bono, Time, 18 Apr. 2005 To an economist, the 1990s bear an uncanny resemblance to two earlier decades: the 1920s in the United States and the 1980s in Japan. In all three decades, technological change produced extraordinary economic growth, leading to talk of a "new era" and triggering a bull market in stocks that terminated in a market collapse—widely regarded as the bursting of a speculative bubble. —Milton Friedman, Wall Street Journal, 22 Jan. 2002 As he approached quite close to the enclosure he saw an excited group surrounding the two fugitives, who, trembling with fright and exhaustion, were scarce able to recount the uncanny details of their adventure. —Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes, 1914 She could not teach herself to think favourably of Pansy, whose absence of initiative, of conversation, of personal claims, seemed to her, in a girl of twenty, unnatural and even uncanny. —Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady, 1881 She had an uncanny resemblance to someone I had seen before. She has an uncanny sense of direction. an uncanny ability to predict the weather
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Recent Examples on the Web

Still, the overall effect can be uncanny and disturbing. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "The Twisted, Enthralling Rot of Sharp Objects," 7 July 2018 Still, some critics have wondered whether the series goes too far—whether its uncanny, occasionally prophetic mirror image of our own world provides enough meaning to justify sitting through all that misery and violence. Laura Bradley, HWD, "The Handmaid’s Tale Writer Breaks Down the Series’s Most Brutal Episode Yet," 20 June 2018 The success of his eponymous children’s show, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, hinged on his friendliness, candor and uncanny approachability. Meghan Overdeep, Southern Living, "Mr. Rogers’ Wife Share’s the Couple’s One-Of-A-Kind Love Story," 9 July 2018 Almost a sketch, the story achieves a brief, uncanny completeness, which proves typical of the nearly fifty more (very) short stories in the collection. Scott Cheshire, latimes.com, "Sara Gallardo's work has finally been published in English. It's about time," 6 July 2018 During his time with Cleveland, Bieber has continued to display the uncanny command that has been his hallmark during a swift rise from fourth-round pick in 2016 to a member of the rotation with the third-best ERA in the majors this season. Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY, "Love yourself: Shane Bieber trusts his stuff, makes believers out of Indians," 3 July 2018 On the surface, the parallels between Sherrill’s hire in 1982 and Fisher’s hire in 2017 seem uncanny. Andy Staples, SI.com, "The Message Behind the Money: How Texas A&M Landed Jimbo Fisher," 28 June 2018 The duo, who share an uncanny likeness, posed for pictures together alongside the film’s director, Eva Dolezalova at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on Thursday. Mike Miller, PEOPLE.com, "Val Kilmer Steps Out with His Lookalike Son After Being Cast in the Top Gun Sequel," 15 June 2018 Guy Smith has an uncanny habit of showing up at the crossroads of history. Daniela Altimari, courant.com, "He Was In Sarajevo During The Siege And Kabul After 9/11. Now Guy Smith Wants to Be Governor.," 14 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'uncanny.' 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 uncanny

1773, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

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Last Updated

20 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for uncanny

The first known use of uncanny was in 1773

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More Definitions for uncanny



English Language Learners Definition of uncanny

: strange or unusual in a way that is surprising or difficult to understand


un·can·ny | \ ˌən-ˈka-nē \

Kids Definition of uncanny

1 : strange or unusual in a way that is surprising or mysterious an uncanny resemblance

2 : suggesting powers or abilities greater than normal an uncanny sense of direction

Other words from uncanny

uncannily \-ˈka-nə-lē \ adverb They look uncannily similar.

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Comments on uncanny

What made you want to look up uncanny? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the setting in which something occurs

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