The Meaning of Uncanny: What It Is and How To Use It

Have you ever been confused by the definition of uncanny? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word uncanny, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word uncanny mean?

According to Collins English Dictionary and the American Heritage Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, the word uncanny is an adjective that means strange and difficult to explain. The uncanny unconsciously reminds us of our own Id as opposed to the ego. The experiencing subject might have a paradoxical nature. Something uncanny is the Freudian concept of an instance where something can be familiar, yet foreign at the same time. Sigmund Freud developed this idea in his essay Das Unheimliche using the German adjective unheimlich from the base word heimlich. Things that are uncanny can cause irreducible anxiety, disgust, miseries, maladies, calamities, and displeasure. Roboticist Masahiro Mori’s uncanny valley has a similar concept, but for CGI. A variety of thinkers have done research on this taboo state of an item or person, like Julia Kristeva’s concept of abjection and psychoanalytic theorist Jacques Lacan, John Galsworthy, Henry Kingsley, George Will, and Ernst Jentsch among other theorists. Uncanny is three syllables – un-can-ny, and the pronunciation of uncanny is ʌnˈkænɪ.

Many things can be uncanny, like uncanny places, an uncanny knack for something, uncanny dread, an uncanny resemblance to freaks, an abomination, the eeriness of dolls, uncanny monsters, fairy-tale folk-devils, an uncanny threat, a particular figure with an eerie aura, a dangerous threat, a social taboo, uncanny effects, an automaton that creates a cognitive dissonance about a particular thing, a psychological experience about a particular thing in a taboo context, monstrous creatures in an unearthly light, an eldritch screech, uncanny shapes, uncanny robots, the unearthly scream of some curlew, a preternatural affability, uncanny stumps that create a superstitious fear and familiar knowledge, an operation of supernatural influences, uncanny realism, uncanny school experience, weird sisters, uncertainty, an uncanny sense of direction, uncanny sounds, uncanny accuracy, or some other aspect of the uncanny that create uneasiness and astonishment.

Many different languages also contain words that mean uncanny. You may notice that some of these translations of uncanny look and sound similar to one another. These are called cognates, which are words and phrases in different languages that likely have the same root or language of origin, causing them to sound the same. The below list of translations of uncanny is provided by Word Sense

  •  German: unheimlich‎, gruselig‎, seltsam‎, verstörend‎
  •  Occitan: estranh‎
  •  Finnish: outo‎, hämmästyttävä‎
  •  Dutch: griezelig‎, mysterieus‎
  •  Czech: podivný‎ (masc.), záhadný‎ (masc.), zvláštní‎ (masc.), zlověstný‎ (masc.), tajemný‎ (masc.), tajuplný‎ (masc.)
  •  Italian: bizzarro‎ (masc.), strano‎, sconcertante‎, curioso‎, inquietante‎, angosciante‎, sinistro‎
  •  Spanish: inquietante‎, desconcertante‎, estraño‎, siniestro‎
  •  Japanese: 不気味‎
  •  Icelandic: óhugnanlegur‎, dularfullur‎, undarlegur‎, kynlegur‎
  •  Romanian: bizar‎
  •  Russian: сверхъесте́ственный‎, жу́ткий‎
  •  Swedish: underlig‎
  •  Greek: αλλόκοτος‎
  •  Ancient Greek: ἀλλόκοτος‎
  •  French: déroutant‎ (masc.), déroutante‎ (fem.), étrange‎, troublant‎
  •  Portuguese: estranho‎

How can the word uncanny be used in a sentence?

The word uncanny can be used in many different contexts in the American English language. Trying to use a word in a sentence is one of the best ways to memorize its definition and add it to your vocabulary, but you can also try making flashcards or quizzes that test your knowledge. Try using this word of the day in a sentence today! Below are a couple of  examples of the word uncanny that can help get you started incorporating this word into your vocabulary.  

He had an uncanny knack for the equations of modern quantum mechanics and machine intelligence. Ken had incredible perceptions at only 14 and went to Princeton University.

The Sandman was a familiar thing, with an uncanny resemblance to June’s nightmare.

She had a pious reverence for the item in the public eye, but in private, the concealed item was uncannily (adv.) creepy.

The successful devices were meant to resemble a human being and societal norms, but they were in a strange uncanny valley that freaked people out though they tried to rationalize it.

What are synonyms and antonyms of uncanny?

There are many different words that one can use in place of the word uncanny (adj.). These are considered synonyms, which are words that have the same definition as another word or phrase. Synonyms are useful to know if you are trying to avoid repeating yourself or if you are looking to expand your vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word uncanny is provided by Power Thesaurus.

  •  extraordinary
  •  mysterious
  •  unfamiliar
  •  spooky
  •  preternatural
  •  witchlike
  •  bizarre
  •  spine-chilling
  •  freaky
  •  curious
  •  unaccountable
  •  singular
  •  spiritual
  •  noteworthy
  •  unbelievable
  •  mystical
  •  offbeat
  •  funny
  •  lurid
  •  magical
  •  phantom
  •  freakish
  •  exceptional
  •  unsettling
  •  anomalous
  •  transcendental
  •  eerie
  •  baffling
  •  mystifying
  •  striking
  •  rare
  •  uncommon
  •  supernormal
  •  hair-raising
  •  terrifying
  •  runic
  •  strange
  •  unorthodox
  •  unnatural
  •  arresting
  •  perplexing
  •  stranger
  •  remarkable
  •  numinous
  •  eccentric
  •  mortuary
  •  irregular
  •  supernatural
  •  ghastly
  •  queer
  •  odd
  •  spookish
  •  fishy
  •  out of the ordinary
  •  outlandish
  •  gruesome
  •  ghostlike
  •  peculiar
  •  inexplicable
  •  occult
  •  incredible
  •  scary
  •  unreal
  •  astonishing
  •  suspicious
  •  eldritch
  •  mystic
  •  macabre
  •  ghostly
  •  notable
  •  phenomenal
  •  spectral
  •  extramundane
  •  miraculous
  •  creepy
  •  astounding
  •  unnaturally
  •  untypical
  •  haunted
  •  surreal
  •  fabulous
  •  unearthly
  •  sinister
  •  quaint
  •  eery
  •  grotesque
  •  otherworldly
  •  frightful
  •  puzzling
  •  superhuman
  •  abnormal
  •  atypical
  •  metaphysical
  •  unexpected
  •  fantastic
  •  weird
  •  amazing
  •  monstrous
  •  unusual
  •  unconventional

There are also many different words that have the opposite meaning as the word uncanny. These are considered antonyms. Antonyms are also very useful to know if you want to expand your vocabulary and knowledge of the English language. This list of antonyms for the word uncanny is also provided by Power Thesaurus

  •  aggregate
  •  decipherable
  •  everyday
  •  fair
  •  not good enough
  •  manifest
  •  commonplace
  •  human
  •  general
  •  earthly
  •  homely
  •  global
  •  explicable
  •  customary
  •  hackneyed
  •  coarse
  •  frequent
  •  average
  •  workaday
  •  regular
  •  typical
  •  illuminating
  •  apparent
  •  communal
  •  intelligible
  •  habitual
  •  common
  •  fitting in
  •  prosaic
  •  expected
  •  unexceptional
  •  akin
  •  wonted
  •  austere
  •  aboriginal
  •  inborn
  •  prose
  •  evident
  •  fathomable
  •  familiar
  •  ordinary
  •  indifferent
  •  natural
  •  standard
  •  usual
  •  caddish
  •  artless
  •  conventional
  •  hearty
  •  normal

Overall, the word uncanny means strange yet familiar. This term was first used in psychology and is also used in fiction. Something that is uncanny is so on an inexplicable basis. 


  1. Uncanny definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary
  2. Uncanny synonyms – 615 Words and Phrases for Uncanny | Power Thesaurus  
  3. uncanny: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  4. Uncanny antonyms – 84 Opposites of Uncanny | Power Thesaurus