Definitions

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.

Etymologies

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").

Examples

Comments

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  • most recently seen on www.avantgame.com, 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