Different Words, Similar Definitions - How to Know the Proper Usage?


While writing a research assignment, I tried labeling a group of events such as earthquakes, raining flowers, and shining lights that are described in Buddhist texts and came up with "supernatural events" or "extraordinary, fantastic events" to describe them. However, I felt unsatisfied with my words and searched thesauri for alternatives to "supernatural," finding "supranatural," "transcendent," "nominal," and "miraculous" listed as some of the synonyms. Just by looking at the definitions of "supernatural" vs. "supranatural," or "supernatural" vs. "transcendent," it is rather difficult to tell the difference between these terms. How am I supposed to know in what contexts and for what meanings these terms are appropriate, since there is clearly a difference between words like "supernatural" and "transcendent?" What is the difference between "supernatural" and "supranatural"?

asked Dec 02 '13 at 06:07 Charm Seeker New member

1 answer


I can't remember ever reading or hearing anyone use the word supranatural. The dictionary tells me that it means supernatural, so I suspect that since they mean exactly the same thing, people don't bother using it. Supernatural means beyond the laws of nature. Transcendent means to go beyond normal limits. When you are talking theology, the meanings are very similar. By transcendent can mean technically within the laws of nature, I suppose, but beyond what is normal. I hope that helps. There really is no easy way to know the subtle differences between words except experience of hearing and reading them in context or asking someone to explain - just like a child's vocabulary increases with experience.

link comment answered Dec 02 '13 at 10:52 Patty T Grammarly Fellow

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