Word of the Day



strange and mysterious, and sometimes frightening

Origin and usage

The Middle English word eerie derives from the northern English and Scottish term for fearfulness. It most likely originated from the Old English ‘earg’, which means cowardly.


Eerie is word used to describe a specific kind of sensation when something does not feel right or seems out of place. It connotes a sense of unease that is most often fuelled by fear of the unknown. Certain objects, events or environmental settings may make people uncomfortable or scared, sending chills up the spine and making their hair stand on end as physical responses to the eerie sensation.

The reason that humans have automatic physical responses to things that are eerie is because the fear that the feeling causes sets off panic signals in the brain, preparing the body for potential reaction to what it perceives as a scary situation. Although the situation itself may turn out to be safe, the initial reaction of not knowing whether or not the eerie situation is going to be dangerous focuses a person’s attention wholly on whatever prompted the fear reaction and generally does not go away until the stimulus is able to be made familiar again.


“It is eerie being all but alone in Westminster Abbey. Without the tourists, there are only the dead, many of them kings and queens. They speak powerfully and put my thoughts into vivid perspective.”

(A.N. Wilson)

“Going across the Tannai Desert was one of the spookiest experiences I’ve ever had. Not driving during the day; that was fine. And so we camped in an old sort of truck siding, I think. And the silence. The eerie silence and then a dingo howling, and it was just so spooky. I didn’t sleep all night.”

(Joan Kirner)


scary, frightening, chilling, spooky, menacing

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary is an award-winning, one-stop reference for English learners and speakers around the world.

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