I hope it's not too rare, but at least 1 other person has confirmed having experienced a similar feeling.

Small, ordinary things can trigger it, in ordinary situations. Then I sometimes get the strange, transitory feeling like I'm on the verge of a huge discovery into the mystery of existence, the universe and stuff.

But then probably the consciousness recedes, because it's like your brain hits a wall, and it comes back down to more mundane, familiar things.

My question is: If ever anyone has documented such a phenomenon, is there a particular term in English that I can use to refer to precisely this feeling?

3 Answers 3


It's hard to tell exactly what you're looking for. Are you looking for a word to describe:

a huge discovery into the mystery of existence, the universe and stuff.”

(à la epiphany)? Or are you looking for a word that describes being on the verge of an epiphany, but not quite attaining it?

(Perhaps you're in that state right now, and you can't decide which?)

Anyway, I'll offer two words – one for each. I don't know if these are exact fits, but they seem like they might be close:

satori: (Zen Buddhism) the state of sudden indescribable intuitive enlightenment

Although that word is of Japanese origin, it is found in many English dictionaries. The OED defines it as a sudden indescribable and uncommunicable inner experience of enlightenment, and lists this quotation:

When you have satori you are able to reveal a palatial mansion made of precious stones on a single blade of grass; but when you have no satori, a palatial mansion itself is concealed behind a simple blade of grass.

The second word is of French origin: presque vu. Although not nearly as prevalent in English dictionaries as its counterpart, déjà vu, it describes that I-almost-have-it, tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon. Presque vu literally means “almost seen;” Wikipedia describes it specifically in the context of not being able to recall a word:

presque vu (from the French for “almost seen”) is the failure to retrieve a word from memory, combined with partial recall and the feeling that retrieval is imminent. The phenomenon's name comes from the saying, “It's on the tip of my tongue.”

However, the Urban Dictionary1 broadens that application somewhat, and defines it almost exactly as the phenomenon you describe in your question:

presque vu: The intense feeling of being at the brink of an epiphany. An extremely frustrating experience, since a breakthrough never arrives - and you are left without it, hoplessly [sic] dreaming it will show itself to you.

1Not exactly the most authoritative source, I realize

  • @J.R- will need to take a day off to read this answer :)
    – Noah
    Jun 14, 2012 at 11:39
  • @J.R. I kinda expected a word that's foreign or geeky. So "presque vu" is my No.1 answer so far. I was about to disregard "presque vu" as only a "word-on-the-tip-of-my-tongue" experience, which I know but isn't the one I had in mind. But I followed it up and, yeah, there's more to it. Here's another resource if we're a bit uncomfortable with Urban Dictionary: tumblr.com/tagged/presque-vu
    – Cool Elf
    Jun 14, 2012 at 13:15
  • Beyond the "word-on-the-tip-of-my-tongue" experience, I found this:"Presque vu means 'almost seen'. Not scientifically recognized, it is the sense that one is on the verge of a large mental breakthrough, almost seeing the absolute truth about something but not quite getting it." Thanks! :-)
    – Cool Elf
    Jun 15, 2012 at 2:47

How about an:

epiphany: a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

  • Hi Jim! I thought of "epiphany" but I'm hoping there's a more "customized" term
    – Cool Elf
    Jun 14, 2012 at 5:03
  • Good luck with that.
    – Jim
    Jun 14, 2012 at 5:07
  • 1
    Premature epiphany?
    – kotekzot
    Jun 14, 2012 at 5:24
  • Frustrated epiphany
    – Jim
    Jun 14, 2012 at 5:35
  • What the OP describes is almost a religious experience, so epiphany seems custom-made.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jun 14, 2012 at 7:21

"precipice" to be on the edge of something. Although it is defined as danger I think you will find it is used in many different ways and could fit. "damn it felt like I was on the precipice of a great .........".


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