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Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

"divine spirit, presiding divinity," 1620s, from Latin numen "divine will, divinity," literally "a nod," from nuere "to nod" (assent); see numinous.


n. a divinity, especially a local or presiding god

  1. n. a spirit believed to inhabit an object or preside over a place (especially in ancient Roman religion)

  2. [also: numina (pl)]


Numen, pl. numina, is a Latin term for " divinity", or a "divine presence", "divine will." The Latin authors defined it as follows. Cicero writes of a "divine mind" (divina mens), a god "whose numen everything obeys," and a "divine power" (vim divinam) "which pervades the lives of men." It causes the motions and cries of birds during augury. In Virgil's recounting of the blinding of the one-eyed giant, Polyphemus, from the Odyssey, in his Aeneid, he has Odysseus and his men first "ask for the assistance of the great numina" (magna precati numina). Reviewing public opinion of Augustus on the day of his funeral, the historian Tacitus reports that some thought "no honor was left to the gods" when he "established the cult of himself" (se ... coli vellet) "with temples and the effigies of numina" (effigie numinum). Pliny the younger in a letter to Paternus raves about the "power," the "dignity," and "the majesty;" in short, the "numen of history." Lucretius uses the expression numen mentis, or "bidding of the mind," where "bidding" is numen, not, however, the divine numen, unless the mind is to be considered divine, but as simply human will.

Since the early 20th century, numen has sometimes been treated in the history of religion as a pre-animistic phase; that is, a belief system inherited from an earlier time. Numen is also used by sociologists to refer to the idea of magical power residing in an object, particularly when writing about ideas in the western tradition. When used in this sense, numen is nearly synonymous with mana. However, some authors reserve use of mana for ideas about magic from Polynesia and southeast Asia.

Numen (journal)

Numen: International Review for the History of Religions is a bimonthly peer-reviewed academic journal covering the history of religions of any regions and times. It was established in 1954 and is published by Brill Publishers. The editors-in-chief are Olav Hammer ( University of Southern Denmark), and Greg Alles ( McDaniel College).

Numen (band)

Numen (rock band) is a Spanish progressive rock band from Alicante formed in 1992 by César Alcaraz, Víctor Arques, Gaspar Martínez, Manuel Mas and Antonio Valiente.Currently, Marcos Beviá is the new guitar player of Numen.

Numen has become one of the most known progressive rock in Spain of the 90’s. The band's sound is predominantly neoprogressive.

Numen (disambiguation)

Numen, plur. numina, is a Latin word typically borrowed by modern languages without alteration. It may mean:

Usage examples of "numen".

Once, far in the distant past of the Galaxy, a race called the Numen had stepped through that hatch and ruled the stars for eons.

Even with thousands of alien ships coming and going from this little planet on a regular basis, no one had even noticed the Numen material here until he stumbled across it.

Power, for power was what the Numen ship, flying among the stars, meant.

Races are willing to go to war to acquire even the smallest bit of Numen technology.

When the Numen built something, they had clearly built it to last and keep working.

And the Numen, a very human-looking alien, was talking to him in a strange language, his robe sleeves pushed back, his hood off his head.

A completely different picture of a Numen than Jay had gotten from the absorption of the manual summary.

He was actually starting to think this Numen method of learning was a good thing.

Billie had learned enough about Numen technology to think he could fly this ship.

Learning how to understand and read Numen was an important discovery that Zed needed to know about.

He had been as convinced as she and Jay that MiB knew about the other ninety-nine Numen ships buried around the world.

We put the Numen ship between the coming fleets and the planet, and Jay there goes into his speech, which says, basically, that the Numen support the treaty and no one should break it.

Three times Jay had run down to the library to absorb another chunk of knowledge about flying a Numen ship.

Pro was swathed in Numen robes, hoods back, sleeves rolled up, and seated in their chairs.

The smooth lines and the unmistakable gold color of the vessel told him at once that it was a Numen ship.