Middle English, from Medieval Latin supernaturalis, from Latin super- + natura nature
- 1: of or relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe; especially : of or relating to God or a god, demigod, spirit, or devil
- 2a : departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature
The supernatural (Latin: super- "above" + nature) pertains to entities, events or powers regarded by some as beyond nature, in that they believe they cannot be explained from the laws of the natural world. Religious miracles are typical of such “supernatural” manifestations, as are spells and curses, divination, the notion that there is an afterlife for the dead, and innumerable others. Supernatural themes are often associated with magical and occult ideas. Supernatural is also a classification for explanations which invoke explanations that in principle are beyond human conception, understanding or verification.
According to the strict materialist view, if something 'supernatural' exists, it is by definition not supernatural. Are there forces beyond the natural forces studied by physics? Are there ways of sensing that go beyond our biological senses and instruments? Most scientists today would say "No"; some mystics, believers in religion or the occult, might say "Yes". Certainly there may always be things outside of the realm of human understanding, as of yet unconfirmed and dubious in existence, and some might term these 'supernatural.'
Argument and controversy has surrounded the issue on both sides. One complicating factor is that there is no exact definition of what “natural” is, and what the limits of naturalism might be. Concepts in the supernatural domain are closely related to concepts in religion, spirituality, metaphysics, or spiritualism. The term "supernatural" is often used interchangeably with paranormal or preternatural - the latter typically limited to an adjective for describing abilities which appear to exceed possible bounds. Likewise, legendary characters such as vampires, poltergeists and leprechauns would be considered supernatural.