un·​can·​ny | \ ˌən-ˈka-nē How to pronounce uncanny (audio) \
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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from uncanny

uncannily \ ˌən-​ˈka-​nə-​lē How to pronounce uncannily (audio) \ adverb
uncanniness \ ˌən-​ˈka-​nē-​nəs How to pronounce uncanniness (audio) \ 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 peculiarity 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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Marcus’ target, a deep learning network called GPT-2, had recently become famous for its uncanny ability to generate plausible-sounding English prose with just a sentence or two of prompting. Quanta Magazine, "Common Sense Comes to Computers," 30 Apr. 2020 This instance of reality mirroring science fiction isn't a rarity for Judge Dredd, which has demonstrated an uncanny ability to predict the future over the last four decades. Graeme Mcmillan, Wired, "Judge Dredd Foreshadowed Our Covid Reality," 23 Apr. 2020 The virus has an uncanny ability to deceive and exploit the host for its own multiplication. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Counterpoint: MIT scientists translate coronavirus protein structure into music," 9 Apr. 2020 With an uncanny ability to get hot from 3-point range, the Cardinals would’ve put together a run and reached the Final Four. Hayes Gardner, The Courier-Journal, "Looking back, Kentucky and Louisville basketball would've made the Final Four ... right?," 18 Mar. 2020 The installation photographs, however, were cleverly constructed to conceal the photographer in the mirror—an uncanny absence that evokes the emptiness of public space in Covid-time. Susan Tallman, The New York Review of Books, "The Master of Unknowing," 25 Apr. 2020 While a mostly-car-free city may look uncanny in the middle of a global pandemic, there used to be a time when that was the norm. Cassandre Coyer, The Christian Science Monitor, "Boston’s car-free streets offer glimpse of low-carbon future," 24 Apr. 2020 Besides stars Lathan and Epps, Prince-Bythewood’s eye for casting demonstrated an uncanny prescience. Sonaiya Kelley, Los Angeles Times, "20 years later, the cast and crew of ‘Love & Basketball’ consider its legacy in an oral history," 21 Apr. 2020 The connection between us is uncanny and a delightful measure of mutual adoration. Steve Meyer, Anchorage Daily News, "The final bird hunt of the season, and everything old feels young again," 18 Apr. 2020

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.

See More

First Known Use of uncanny

1773, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about uncanny

Time Traveler for uncanny

Time Traveler

The first known use of uncanny was in 1773

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about uncanny

Statistics for uncanny

Last Updated

16 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Uncanny.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/uncanny. Accessed 27 May. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for uncanny


How to pronounce uncanny (audio)

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 How to pronounce uncanny (audio) \

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.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on uncanny

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for uncanny

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with uncanny

Spanish Central: Translation of uncanny

Nglish: Translation of uncanny for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of uncanny for Arabic Speakers

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Obscure Shapes

  • a pile of three dimensional shapes in green
  • Something that is ooid is shaped like:
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!