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Please note that I received an answer, so I'm considering this topic closed.


When it comes to déjà vu, does one feel, experience, have, sense, or see it?

Edit: This question was put on hold, though I'm not sure why. The reason I asked it is because I've seen people use any one of the five verbs above to deja vu, and I'd like to know which is correct. I asked around a few editors and they weren't sure. So I then checked dictionaries for examples, hoping that would help. Here are the examples from Merriam-Webster.

  1. I entered the room and immediately felt a sense of déjà vu.

  2. When the car broke down again, it was déjà vu.

  3. The rise in housing costs is déjà vu all over again.

Oxford Dictionary doesn't offer examples, but it does define Deja Vu as:

‘a feeling of déjà vu’ ‘to list the opponents of his policies is to invite boredom and a sense of déjà vu'

So Merriam seems to attribute deja vu to a sense (or a feeling of a sense), while Oxford attributes it to a feeling. Neither, however, seem to me to be conclusive evidence that one is more correct than the other. It can be argued that, just because the correct definition of deja vu is either a sense of deja vu or a feeling of deja vu, that doesn't mean that, when someone talks about having deja vu, they wouldn't say they had it or experienced it. Deja Vu can be defined as a feeling of deja vu, and when someone says they had deja vu, they're saying that they had that feeling of deja vu.

This is all very technical, which is why I didn't get into it originally. The point is that, despite the research I did, I didn't walk away with a conclusive answer as to which verb to use. So I asked it here to see if anyone knew if deja vu should be attributed to any one of those five verbs over the other.

And to clarify, it does seem that some of those verbs are better than others. It seems from my research that "sense" and "feel" is more common than "experience" or "See." My question is if one can say that any one of the five is conclusively the best verb to use in association with Deja Vu.

Thank you

P.S. In case you already read the pre-edited post and are getting confused, there were originally four verbs I asked about. I added a fifth one: "sense."

closed as off-topic by Edwin Ashworth, tchrist Feb 7 '18 at 22:50

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  • The usual expression is 'I had a sense of déjà vu', but other idiomatic examples are given by online dictionaries. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 7 '18 at 23:23
  • In one edit this post changed from a single line question to an encyclopedic entry :) Wow! – Mari-Lou A Feb 8 '18 at 15:10
  • There's a big difference between 'feeling deja vu' - the genuine, wierd spooky sense of 'this has happened before', and saying 'it was deja vu' as an expression. The latter is not referring to any genuine experience of actually having 'deja vu' - rather, it is an ironic use, comparing the feeling that something you don't want to happen 'yet again!' but that you kind of, wearily, expected to happen 'yet again!' - is happening. But this is not real deja vu - it is using it as an expression to point up the fact that a usually unwanted occurrence of something, is happening... agggaaaiiin! – Jelila Feb 8 '18 at 15:38
  • So 1. - is the genuine experiece of 'deja vu', whereas 2. and 3. are using it casually, as an expression - not genuinely having a real experience of it. – Jelila Feb 8 '18 at 15:39
  • (1) Why do you believe that there is (only) one “correct” word?  What verb is the correct one to use with “sunrise”?  Obviously you can see it (but don’t look directly into the sun!), but you can also experience it or enjoy it, and it’s only a small stretch to suggest that you can feel, sense or detect it. (2) You, yourself, say “some of those verbs are better than others”, which suggests that it’s not one white and four black, but rather shades of gray. – Scott Feb 8 '18 at 15:46

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