Printable Version
Pronunciation: pre-dêr--chê-rêl Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Beyond nature or what is normal, extraordinary, super unnatural, otherworldly. 2. Inexplicable by normal reasoning.

Notes: Today's adjective comes with a relatively large family. Besides the adverb, preternaturally, and the noun, preternaturalness, we have another noun, preternaturalism, that means either "belief in the preternatural" or, as a count noun, "a preternatural phenomenon". This latter noun gives rise to preternaturalist "someone believing in the preternatural".

In Play: The original sense of this word implied weirdness: "The vampire moved with preternatural speed to the young virgin's neck." However, these days it replaces extremely when this word is just isn't strong enough: "Henry saw through Priscilla's pretentions with preternatural clarity."

Word History: Today's word is based on Medieval Latin praeternaturalis, created from the phrase praeter naturam "beyond nature", composed of praeter "beyond" + natura "nature" in the accusative case. Natura is a noun coming from natus "born", the past participle of nasci "to be born", from a variant, gnê-, of the PIE root genê-/gonê-/gnê- "give birth, beget, create". We find evidence of this root in thousands of words across the Indo-European languages. English borrowed genius, generate, gene, and pregnant ("pre-birth-ing") from Latin. But this PIE root also reached English through its Germanic ancestors as kin and king. Gingerly comes from an Old French word that also was borrowed by English as gent, as in gentle. (Today's Good Word came from our long-standing South African friend and preternatural word lover Chris Stewart.)

Dr. Goodword,

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