Presque vu – Wacky Word Wednesday

Presque vu is a word you don’t hear every day unless you’re in France. It’s our featured term on this week’s Wacky Word Wednesday, a weekly celebration of some of the wackiest and most interesting words from around the world.

Today’s wacky word is: presque vu.

The definition:

quo top

pres·que vu

[prehskuh voo]


the inability to remember a word or put your finger on the right word.

quo botPresque vu

Presque vu is French for “almost seen”—a fancy-pants way of saying “brain fart” or “having a senior moment.” Basically, presque vu is a French neologism that refers to the tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon (TOT). TOTs are instances in which, for no good reason at all, you temporarily forget a key word during conversation and are irritated by the feeling that it’s right at the tip of your tongue. Interestingly enough, presque vu is a psychological anomaly that may share the same synaptic origins as déjà vu, which is French for “already seen,” which is French for “already seen.”—Wait, did I say that twice?

The definition given above is from the word lethologica, which refers to the clinical inability to recall a word. Our use of it above is a little misleading because lethologica is actually a psychological disorder, whereas presque vu is just, well, a brain fart. To be fair, however, although presque vu and lethologica are unrelated in terms of cause, their effects are remarkably similar.

Surprisingly, a lot of research has been done to better understand presque vu. Back in 1965, psychologists Robert Brown and David McNeill wrote in “The ‘tip of the tongue’ phenomenon” that “[A subject] ‘seized’ by a TOT state. . . would appear to be in mild torment, something like the brink of a sneeze, and if he found the word his relief was considerable” (p. 326). Sounds about right to me. Don’t you hate that feeling?

Related:  Five Tips for Linguistic Testers

In the same article, Mr. Brown and McNeill related some bad news for our friends out there who’re more “along” in years: apparently, instances of presque vu tend to increase with age. So if you’ve noticed those hairs a-grayin’ as of late, then you might want to prepare yourself for, um… GAH! What’s that word again?! I’m pretty sure it starts with a P….

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  1. Very nice to read ans interesting.
    When “deja vu” makes a lot of sense in French, I am surprise I have never heard about “presque vu” as it is describe here although I am a French native speaker…