Preternatural vs supernatural

Photo of author


Preternatural and supernatural are words that are sometimes confused. We will examine the difference between the words preternatural and supernatural, where these words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Preternatural describes something that is beyond what is expected or normal. Preternatural describes something with qualities that are so beyond the normal it seems as if an unknown force is involved. For instance, the composer Mozart may be described as preternatural, as he was an inexplicable child prodigy and a musical genius. However, he was not a god or angel, he was a mortal man who was gifted with superior genetics, instruction and opportunities. The word preternatural is derived from the Latin phrase praeter naturam, which means beyond nature. Related words are preternaturally, preternaturalism.

Supernatural describes something that is uncanny, something that must be caused by a force beyond the natural. Such diverse things as ghosts, angels, mediumship and elves are considered supernatural. Previously, supernatural described things that were attributable to the divine, but now is used to mean anything that is beyond what may be proved physically and scientifically. The word supernatural is derived from the Latin word supernaturalis, which means above nature. Related words are supernaturally, supernaturalism.


They seemed to have a preternatural sense for where the other twin was on the ice, something some commentators attributed to telepathy, Alex Burrows attributed to dolphin noises they made on the ice, and what was likely just because of literal decades spent playing with each other. (The Vancouver Courier)

It may simply be that years of preternatural calm, induced by rock-bottom interest rates and symbolized by the market’s low “fear gauge” (VIX), are over. (The Wall Street Journal)

Simone St. James’ sixth stand-alone novel mixes a creepy supernatural tale, complete with ghosts and things that go bump in the night, with a gripping mystery. (The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette)

M Night Shyamalan has several feathers in his cap — he is a director, screenwriter, author, producer and actor known for making movies with contemporary supernatural plots and surprise endings. (The Daily Pioneer)