from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun The perception of a recognizable image or meaningful pattern where none exists or is intended, as the perception of a face in the surface features of the moon.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun The tendency to interpret a vague stimulus as something known to the observer, such as interpreting marks on Mars as canals, seeing shapes in clouds, or hearing hidden messages in music.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[para– + Greek eidōlon, image, phantom; see idol + –ia.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Ancient Greek; παρα (para, "amiss, wrong") + εἴδωλον (eidōlon, "image").


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  • most recently seen on, Jane McGonigal's website. context: "Ceci n'est pas un pareidolia"

    March 28, 2007

  • A psychological phenomenon by which people perceive random scatter as being a distinguishable object, such as a face.

    This is what is going on when people see the Virgin Mary in their pizza.

    October 9, 2007

  • Ooh, glad to have a word for this phenomenon.

    October 9, 2007

  • Those kooks! Hmph. Everyone knows the Virgin Mary appears only in grilled cheese sandwiches, not pizza. Sheesh!

    October 9, 2007

  • I once found a likeness of Richard Nixon in a hush puppy. Really.

    October 9, 2007

  • I have a smudge of somethingorother on my living room window that looks like a faerie (or at least what I would imagine one to look like).

    October 9, 2007

  • My right shoe has a scuff in the exact shape of the Loch Ness Monster, if the Loch Ness Monster were a black leather shoe.

    October 9, 2007

  • Aha! Not only is there a word for that, but it's already on reesetee's It has a name?? list.

    Thank you, a.

    May 28, 2010

  • I do what I can.

    May 28, 2010

  • You're awesome, treeeees.

    You're awesome too, a.

    May 28, 2010

  • I *love* those cheese graters!

    May 28, 2010

  • Who knew that a cheese grater could be such an eidetic eidolon.

    June 2, 2010

  • Ceci n'est pas la lettre a.

    April 4, 2014