I'm looking for a shorter way to convey the meaning of The phenomenon of something being found saliently disturbing due to its imperfect similarity to (but little compatibility with) something familiar; what we would call "deep in the uncanny valley" if we were talking exclusively about visual (possibly behavioral) similarity to humans, but applicable also to other senses, and similarity to even inorganic yet familiar things

Example: mimicry in animals and plants (not the part where they fool, but the dissonance - where you know it's not what your pattern recognition suggests)

"Uncanny-valley-like-effect" doesn't feel sufficient.

Fields it might be good to focus on: background items in some horrors; marketing failures, culture shock...

  • 1
    You could just say "eerily similar". Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 10:06

2 Answers 2


How about just uncanny?

That plant looked uncannily liked a human

To her, the noise the bird made sounded uncannily like screaming

The word itself implies a certain sense of fear or dread

mysterious; arousing superstitious fear or dread; uncomfortably strange:


  • Doesn't feel accurate enough. It is said to be only mildly negative if at all... "Uncanny valley" tends to be stronger in effect and significance than the way I've usually seen "uncanny" used by itself. Even if once intended for this use, the word has been nearly as stripped of impact as 'literally".
    – kaay
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 9:29
  • Accepted as that is the word's primary meaning, even if it's bound to be mistaken for an intensifier by many.
    – kaay
    Commented Jul 29, 2016 at 10:45

Another probable phrase could be twilight zone:

Twilight zone: a situation or conceptual area that is characterized by being undefined, intermediate, or mysterious.

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