[Ads-l] Antedating of "paranormal"

Hugo hugovk at GMAIL.COM
Thu Oct 8 11:12:42 UTC 2015

The OED's looking for examples before 1920.


Here's a January 1905 in Notes by Dr. Maxwell, Bordeaux, published in
The Annals of Psychical Science ( Vol. 1, January-June 1905, page 60):

Now, that which gives a paranormal character to this
hallucination is the fact that M. U. and Mme. R. died a
~hort time afterwards. Mme. R. died suddenly on the 2nd
August, from an embolism. M. U. died on the 16th
September, from an attack of apoplexy. At the time the
apparition was seen, both Mme. R. and M. U. were in
excellent health, therefore Mlle. C. could not have been
preoccupied on their account.


Here's Dr. Joseph Maxwell again in his book Metapsychical Phenomena
from 1905. He uses the word at least two dozen times. This may be the
first, on page 98:

Once again, I cannot too strongly warn experimenters
against dark seances : they are absolutely worthless when
paranormal phenomena are required. These ought to be
obtained in full light ; under such conditions the levita-
tion of the table is a verifiable phenomenon.


Later, on page 376:

The first, which are apparently contrary to the ordinary
data of experience, are paranormal phenomena, that is to
say, outside the usual rule ; the second, on the contrary,
are normal. Parakinesis is a paranormal movement with
contact ; telekinesis is a paranormal movement without


The title page says Maxwell was Deputy-Attorney-General at the Court
of Appeal, Bordeaux, France, and gives the translator's name as L.I.


It's interesting that this book was in French first, as the OED's
current etymology notes to "Compare French paranormal (1920)". And
Maxwell's original book contains a French antedating too.

An essay on Maxwell says after many years he first published his
research in 1903 in Les phénomènes psychiques: recherches,
observations, méthodes (Paris: Alcan). Here's several examples of the
word in the 1903 book.



The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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