preternatural

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English[edit]

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Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Latin preternaturalis/praeternaturalis, from praeter nātūram, from praeter(beyond) + nātūra(nature); compare supernatural.

Pronunciation[edit]

  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˌpriː.təˈnæt͡ʃ.(ə)ɹ.əl/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˌpri.tɚˈnæt͡ʃ.(ə)ɹ.əl/
  • (file)

Adjective[edit]

preternatural ‎(comparative more preternatural, superlative most preternatural)

  1. Beyond or not conforming to what is natural or according to the regular course of things; strange; inexplicable; extraordinary; abnormal.
    • 1815, William Shearman, New Medical and Physical Journal
      I have employed cold air, and very often spongings with cold water, in order to moderate the preternatural heat of the skin, and to check the increased velocity of the circulation.
    • 1882, George Edward Ellis, The Red Man and the White Man in North America, p. 152,
      Doubtless there has been some exaggeration in the picturesque and fanciful relations of the almost preternatural skill and cunning of the Indian []
    • 2014 January 4, Lucy Hughes-Hallett, “The other Charlotte Brontë girl [online version (3 January 2014): Why Villette is better than Jane Eyre: Everybody knows Jane Eyre, but Charlotte Brontë's greatest and most original novel was her last, Villette]”, in The Daily Telegraph[1], London, page R14:
      "Villette! Villette! wrote George Eliot. "It is a still more wonderful book than Jane Eyre. There is something almost preternatural in its power."
  2. (dated) Having an existence outside of the natural world.
    • 1817, William Hazlitt, Characters of Shakespeare's Plays, "Macbeth",
      Macbeth is like a record of a preternatural and tragical event.
    • 1860, George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss, Book 1, Chapter 11,
      Not Leonore, in that preternatural midnight excursion with her phantom lover, was more terrified than poor Maggie in this entirely natural ride on a short-paced donkey, [...]
    • 1925, Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Ring of Thoth",
      Vansittart Smith, fixing his eyes upon the fellow's skin, was conscious of a sudden impression that there was something inhuman and preternatural about its appearance.

Usage notes[edit]

In modern secular use, refers to extraordinary but still natural phenomena, as in “preternatural talent”. In religious and occult usage, used similarly to supernatural, meaning “outside of nature”, but usually to a lower level than supernatural – it can be used synonymously (identical to supernatural), as a hyponym (a kind of supernatural), or a coordinate term (similar to supernatural, but a distinct category). For example, in Catholic theology, preternatural refers to properties of creatures like angels, while supernatural refers to properties of God alone.

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