From Latin nūmen (nod of the head; divine sway or will; divinity) +‎ -ous (suffix forming adjectives from nouns, denoting possession or presence of a quality). Nūmen is believed to derive either from Latin *nuō (to nod) or from Ancient Greek νοούμενον (nooúmenon, influence perceptible by the mind but not the senses) (ultimately from νόος (nóos, mind; thought; purpose)).



numinous (comparative more numinous, superlative most numinous)

  1. Of or relating to a numen (divinity); indicating the presence of a divinity. [from mid 17th c.]
    His interest in numinous objects led him on a quest for the Holy Grail.
    • 1972, Burr Cartwright Brundage, “The Mexica Gain a King”, in A Rain of Darts: The Mexica Aztecs (Texas Pan American Series), Austin, Tx.; London: University of Texas Press, →ISBN, page 23:
      The fetish of Huitzilopochtli, bundled up and screened from profane eyes, now preceded the wandering group, carried on the back of his oracle-priest or sorcerer who alone was holy enough to handle safely the numinous object.
    • 1981, C. Bennett Pascal, “October Horse”, in D[avid] R[oy] Shackleton Bailey, editor, Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, →ISBN, page 278:
      The use of blood to instill numen into a thing is illustrated by the establishment and annual renewal of Terminus, the boundary marker [] The transfer of numinous power to persons has its example in the drinking of blood by seers in order to get oracular vision.
  2. Evoking a sense of the mystical, sublime, or transcendent; awe-inspiring.
    • 1647, Theodore de la Guard [pseudonym; Nathaniel Ward], The Simple Cobler of Aggawam in America. [], London: Printed by J[ohn] D[ever] & R[obert] I[bbitson] for Stephen Bowtell, [], OCLC 560031272; The Simple Cobler of Aggawam in America (Force’s Collection of Historical Tracts; vol. III, no. 8), 5th edition, reprinted at Boston in N. England: For Daniel Henchman, []; [Washington, D.C.: W. Q. Force], 1713 (1844 printing), OCLC 800593321, page 44:
      The Will of a King is very numinous; it hath a kind of vast universality in it, it is many times greater than the will of his whole Kingdom, stiffened with ill Counsel and ill Presidents: []
    • 1971, Peter Brown, The World of Late Antiquity: From Marcus Aurelius to Muhammad (Library of European civilization), London: Thames and Hudson, →ISBN, page 154:
      [Justinian I] had the genius to realize the vast resources available to an east Roman emperor of the early sixth century — an almost numinous past history, a full treasury, an unrivalled supply of human talent in every field.
    • 1996, Anne Bernays, “Introduction”, in Mark Twain [pseudonym; Samuel Langhorne Clemens], Merry Tales, New York, N.Y.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page xxxix:
      Is death closer than they think? [Samuel Langhorne] Clemens sets the scene with a numinous description of the men waiting in the corncrib in the "veiled moonlight."

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