Word of The Day for Wednesday, October 6, 2010


su•per•nal  (soo-pur-nl)  /səˈpərnl/  n

1. being or coming from on high, heavenly, ethereal, superlatively good
2. being on high or in the sky or visible heavens
3. being in or belonging to the heaven of divine beings; heavenly, celestial, or divine
4. lofty; of more than earthly or human excellence, powers, etc.

supernally adverb


Synonyms: divine, heavenly, superb, superior, superlative
Antonym: infernal
Related: superior, super-

• In this strange half of the world where nature's juggling hand dealt now in supernal beauty, now in horror without a name, how might they, puppets of their age, hold an even balance, know the mirage, know the truth?
• The second obvious element in Shelley's poetry is his love of beauty, not the common beauty of nature or humanity which Wordsworth celebrated, but a strange supernal beauty with no earthly quality or reality.
• In the tiny chalets perched on the mountain ridges, folks literally dwell in cloudland, and enjoy a kind of supernal existence, having for near neighbours the eagles in their eyries and the fleet-footed chamois or izard.

The Storyline

..no such supernal sentiments rushed to mind for Anna in this moment.


1475–85, "heavenly, divine," from O.Fr. supernal (12c.), formed from L. supernus "situated above, celestial" from super "above, over;" from PIE base *uper "over"

Sources: Merriam-Webster, Online Etymology, Dictionary.com,Wordnik

Why This Word:

Like yesterday's word, macarism, supernal's devlish counterpart, infernal, is far more common and widely used. As a superlative meaning superior, it has a lot of company, even among similarly derived words, like superior. But we often, incorrectly I think, misuse words like wonderful, fantastic and super as exact synonyms instead of sussing out the nuances and subtle differences to create a rich and varied cornucopia of superlatives.

Supernal has a unique niche in that assortment. Heavenly, but still in the visible sky. Supernal has an ethereal quality but isn't quite as ephemeral.

Word-E: A Word-A-Day

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