Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
July 28th, 2016
Episode 599 of 923 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for July 28, 2016 is: numinous \NOO-muh-nus\ adjective 1 : supernatural, mysterious 2 : filled with a sense of the presence of divinity : holy 3 : appealing to the higher emotions or to the aesthetic sense : spiritual Examples: Pilgrims to the shrine spoke to the congregation about their numinous experiences. "… the stories, different as they were from one another, shared a sense of horror as something numinous and elusive, too tricky to be approached head-on." — Terrence Rafferty, The New York Times, 5 June 2016 Did you know? Numinous is from the Latin word numen, meaning "divine will" or "nod" (it suggests a figurative nodding, of assent or of command, of the divine head). English speakers have been using numen for centuries with the meaning "a spiritual force or influence." We began using numinous in the mid-1600s, subsequently endowing it with several senses: "supernatural" or "mysterious" (as in "possessed of a numinous energy force"), "holy" (as in "the numinous atmosphere of the catacombs"), and "appealing to the aesthetic sense" (as in "the numinous nuances of her art"). We also created the nouns numinousness and numinosity, although these are rare.