Jamais vu

A friend once mentioned that some words begin to look strange when they are uttered in repetition. I too, have experienced that phenomenon not through utterance alone but also through contemplation. For instance, I hear a word and it echoes in my head, repeatedly, until it loses all vestiges of meaning. Recently, I learned the term for such phenomenon is jamais vu.

According to Wikipedia, a word has three characteristics: it has a form or a shape, which is a composite of sounds or characters (when written); it has a function, which is how the word operates in a meaningful sentence (i.e. as a noun); and it has a meaning, which is the concept the word represents.

When one repeats a word continuously, one is merely repeating its form. Initially, one is aware of the word’s function and meaning but without a sentence, the word loses its function. Without a sentence, there is also no context, and thus, the word loses its meaning.


In psychology, jamais vu is said to be the opposite of déjà vu. While déjà vu is the perception that a present event has already occurred in the past, jamais vu is the perception that a past event is happening for the first time. A common experience would be someone not recognizing a place or a person that is already known.

Jamais vu literally means “never seen” in French while déjà vu means “already seen”. A related term, presque vu, the “it’s -at-the-tip-of-my-tongue” phenomenon, translates as “almost seen”.



  1. Boots · July 10, 2009

    so i learned something new today. thank you.

    i love your work

  2. Christy Douglass · July 28, 2009

    I have expierienced Jamais Vu as a teenager. I was sitting in my parent’s living room and looked outside and i didn’t recognize it. It was like I was looking at for the first time. I had lived there for several years. I didn’t understand what was going on! I just walked onto the patio and into the back yard, just staring around. It was like the whole house and yard had been picked up and set down into a different place! I didn’t find about jamais vu until several years later. It just blew me away. It only lasted for a few minutes but it kinda scared me at the same time.

  3. absolute0 · July 29, 2009

    Wow. I’ve never experienced jamais vu like that. Your experience was kinda creepy.

  4. Pingback: Here’s to twelve years of blogging | 遠くへ

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