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Word of the Week: Pareidolia

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Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each week to amp up your nature vocabulary!

This week’s word of the week is pareidolia [par-i-DOH-lee-a] (n.): the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern where there is none.

The word stems from the German word pareidolie which itself stems from the Greek words para meaning beside, alongside, or related to, and eidolon meaning unsubstantial, ghost-like image or reflection.

Usually this includes the perception of objects, faces and animals, in cloud formations, artwork, photos, light patterns, shadows, various inanimate objects, or in nature like this old tree trunk! While this term is generally reserved for visual perceptions, a similar concept could also extend to the perceived hearing of hidden messages and patterns in music and other random sounds.