Today I Discovered Jamais Vu, The Opposite Of Déjà Vu

Today I Discovered Jamais Vu, The Opposite Of Déjà Vu
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Everyone’s familiar with déjà vu – everyone would have experienced it at some stage in your life. It’s a disconcerting flash of recognition of something you know you’ve never seen before, yet still feels all too familiar. Less people know about this term’s sister, jamais vu: but it’s a great descriptor for another weird mind trick that’s just as trippy to experience.

Just as déjà vu is a borrowed French term meaning ‘already seen’, jamais vu means ‘never seen’. It refers to a moment where you fail to recognise a person, place, situation or word that you know is familiar.

While this neurological phenomenon might sound a little less relatable than its more well-known counterpart, there’s one example of it that most people have experienced at one time or another. Try this: pick any word on this page, say it over and over and just keep repeating it until you start to doubt that it’s actually a real word. That’s an example of jamais vu right there.

In more extreme examples, jamais vu can be brought on by intoxication or various disorders, and can lead to sufferers believing friends or family are actually imposters or fakes. This phenomenon can also be brought on by epileptic seizures.

The lesser version of this is known as ‘presque vu’, or ‘almost seen’, which is really just a catchier term for having something on the tip of your tongue but not quite being able to remember it.

Today I Discovered is a daily dose of facts for Lifehacker readers – the weird, wonderful and sometimes worrying. Most of the time, it’s just mind-blowing. Let us know if you discovered anything that blew your mind in the comments!


  • I have a feeling the term ‘presque vu’ is going to be a major source of my presque vu in the future.
    That being said, I’ve had days recently when the occasional noun just doesn’t want to work for me at all and I struggle to get the word out, and I like having a name for that feeling.

    Side note: Is there a term for the déjà vu feedback loop that happens when you not only remember the thing that just happened, but you remember getting déjà vu about it?

  • I remember a couple of years ago looking through some sheetmusic and seeing Beethoven’s name and thinking briefly that it was spelled wrong and that no one could have such a ridiculous name.

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