Have you ever been doing something or talking to someone and, suddenly, you get this weird sensation that you’ve seen or heard it before? Even though you know that what you’re seeing or hearing is happening right now for the first time, you still feel like it’s familiar and has occurred previously.

If you’re like most people, you’ve felt that way from time to time. Believe it or not, there’s a special name for that feeling. It’s called déjà vu.

Déjà vu is a French phrase that means “already seen.” It is used to describe the feeling you get when you’re sure that you’ve already experienced a current situation, even though you can’t quite remember the prior experience and may only be imagining it.

Déjà vu was a term used by Émile Boirac, a French psychic researcher, in his book called L’Avenir des Sciences Psychiques (“The Future of Psychic Sciences”). Experiencing déjà vu involves a strong sense of familiarity combined with an equally strong strange or eerie feeling.

Often people feeling déjà vu believe the previous experience occurred in a dream. In some cases, though, people feeling déjà vu firmly believe the past experience actually happened.

Is déjà vu a sixth sense or a glimpse into the future or the past? Not likely! Researchers believe the sensation of déjà vu is most likely just a trick our brains play on us, making us think that an experience we’re currently having is being remembered rather than occurring right now.

This explanation makes sense when you consider that experiencing déjà vu involves a strong sense of remembering something, yet the details of the supposed previous experience are often very fuzzy. This accounts for the strange and weird feeling that usually accompanies déjà vu.

The brain is also suspected to be the cause of a couple of related phenomena that also have French names. Jamais vu (“never seen”) is a term psychologists use to describe the weird or strange feeling a person gets when he or she encounters a familiar situation that nevertheless feels unfamiliar.

Jamais vu is sometimes called the opposite of déjà vu. Unlike déjà vu, jamais vu involves people feeling like they’ve never experienced a situation before, even though they rationally understand that they’ve certainly experienced the situation previously. Jamais vu is sometimes associated with amnesia, because a person, for example, might temporarily not recognize a person or place that they definitely know well.

Another related phenomenon is presque vu (“almost seen”). Presque vu is sometimes called “tip of the tongue.” It’s a situation in which you can’t remember a familiar word or name momentarily. You feel like the word or name is on the “tip of the tongue” and, with effort, you usually can remember it eventually.

 

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  1. No! I was wrong. Today’s wonder of the day is not like the very 1st wonder. However, I loved today’s wonder!

    Fast Fact: There are some roller coasters called Déjà Vu.

    I want more wonders about roller coasters. I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day is about brains. Again I am not positive, though.

    • Happy Sunday, TJ! Thanks for letting us know you loved today’s Wonder…we’re SUPER happy to hear that! Thanks, also, for taking a guess about tomorrow’s Wonder, too! We can’t wait to see if your guess was correct!

      We have another past Wonder we think you will REALLY enjoy! It’s Wonder of the Day® #251 – Where Is the Fastest Roller Coaster? Here is a link that will take you right to it: http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/where-is-the-fastest-roller-coaster/. Happy WONDERing! :-)

  2. Hey, Wonderopolis! It’s me, Lauren, from Friday. I had more fun than I’ve had in a really long time job shadowing on Friday and hope I’ll get to come back soon!

    • Thanks for visiting today’s Wonder of the Day®, Lauren! It’s fun to shadow someone at their job because you get to see all the different things people do inside a company and how they interact with each other and their customers (or other people they get to see everyday as part of their job)! We’re glad you had so much fun…thanks for telling us about your experience! You’re a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

  3. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Cool wonder! I experience deja vu all the time! It’s kind of scary. Deja vu means I’ve seen this all before. I think tomorrow’s wonder is about bugs.
    XOXOXOXOXO,
    Paige ;)

    • Hello, Marion! We really appreciate you letting us know what you thought about today’s Wonder! We hope you learned something new! :-)

  4. Whats up, wonderopolis? How is your sunny Sunday? My day has gone good! I always have deja vu. At school, I have deja vu. HAVE A GOOD REST OF YOUR SUNNY SUNDAY!!!!!

    • What a super nice comment, Smile22! Thank you for making us smile on this sunny Sunday and for visiting today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  5. I saw the “Where is the fastest roller coaster” wonder. The fastest roller coaster is Formula Rossa at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi.

    And 1 question: What is Déjà Vu? Please reply.

    TJ

    • We think it’s AWESOME that you visited the roller coaster Wonder, TJ! Déjà vu is “the feeling you get when you’re sure that you’ve already experienced a current situation, even though you can’t quite remember the prior experience and may only be imagining it.” We encourage you to re-explore today’s Wonder for a more in-depth explanation of déjà vu, as well as some other “vu” experiences! We learned a lot today and we hope you do, too! :-)

  6. WOW! I am really glad that you people have given a name to that feeling. I have experienced deja vu many times. I don’t know what it was called, at last now I found it. Thanks very much, wonderopolis.

    • Hi, Amoolya! Thanks so much for hanging out in Wonderopolis and for leaving us this great comment! We’re glad you learned something new about déjà vu today! :-)

    • We don’t think experiencing déjà vu so many times is a curse, Clayton! Thank you for sharing your personal experience with everyone in Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • We’re really glad you like this Wonder, Aaron! Thanks so much for letting us know! We appreciate you visiting Wonderopolis today! :-)

    • Those are very good questions, Emily! The human brain is an AMAZING thing! Scientists are constantly trying to learn new ways it works and why it does things like try to play tricks on us. Thank you for your comment today! :-)

  7. How do you get smiley faces on the comments, Wonderopolis? Please help me!

    Triva- How old was the tallest giraffe?
    Triva- Do books actally open the door to discovery?

    BYE

    • Those are GREAT trivia questions, Wonder Friend! They would make awesome future Wonders of the Day, so thanks so much for suggesting them! To make a smiley face, you type a colon and an ending parenthesis. : + ) = :)

    • Hello, Andrew! Thanks so much for letting us know you learned some awesome new things about Déjà Vu! We think that ROCKS! :-)

  8. Happy Monday, Pizzacuttercat, Teddybear and Deja vu! Thanks so much for all your great comments!

    We encourage you all to re-explore this Wonder of the Day® about Déjà Vu to learn the answers to the questions you are WONDERing about! :-)

  9. Wow, I get deja vu a lot and it is really interesting to know I get it. This the coolest thing I’ve ever seen with my own eyes, Thanks, Wonderopolis for the most interesting and coolest adventure ever. :)

    • Thanks for hanging out in Wonderopolis today, Aaron! We appreciate you letting us know that today’s Wonder is the coolest thing you’ve ever seen! That makes our day! :-)

  10. You know, Emily, Sammybear and Aaron (plus Nick) are all in my 5/6 grade class. Btw, cool wonder. We have to do a writing on demand of this.

    DEEEJ

    • You guys are ALL great Wonder Friends and we’re so glad you like visiting Wonderopolis together in class, DEEEJ! Have a WONDERful day! :-)

    • You’re very welcome, Aaron! We try really hard to reply to all the comments left for us on Wonderopolis! Thanks for being a SUPER Wonder Friend! :-)

    • Hello, Jaden! This Wonder of the Day® is FULL of great information that describes what déjà vu is! There are even some other kinds of “vu” experiences, too! We encourage you to re-explore this Wonder to help you WONDER even more! :-)

    • Hello, Erin! Thanks so much for visiting this Wonder of the Day®! We appreciate your question and encourage you to re-explore this Wonder to learn all about déjà vu! :-)

  11. Hi,

    I hear some of my friends say deja vu and I always wonder what it means. So that is why I looked at this wonder, it was Super awesome/helpful. I never knew there were different kinds also. Thank you for making me Wonder.

    TeamClark 19 :) :)

    • We thought it was really awesome to learn there were different types of “vu,” too, Team Clark 19! Thanks for visiting this Wonder and letting us know you learned something new today! :-)

  12. I had strong deja vu experiences until the recent past but not now, don’t know why.

    What ever important decisions I’ve taken in my life, I have already felt them before like job, girl friend, illness, etc., and trust me, the situation I am in now also doesn’t make me any surprise, as I always felt them before.

    My Deja vu experiences from my childhood to until now have always come true!

    • Hello, Vinod! Thank you for adding something great to this Wonder of the Day® by sharing your experiences with déjà vu! We’re glad you stopped by Wonderopolis and we want to THANK YOU for being a GREAT Wonder Friend! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Have you experienced déjà vu?
  • What does déjà vu mean?
  • Why do people experience déjà vu?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Comedian George Carlin once experienced vujà dé — not déjà vu — but vujà dé…“the strange feeling that somehow none of this has ever happened before!” Has that ever happened to you?

We want you to use your imagination to write a short story about a character that experiences either déjà vu or vujà dé…or both! Kick your brain into high gear and feel free to be wildly creative. The sky’s the limit!

Who should your main character be? You? A friend? A family member? A celebrity? Your favorite singer? A historical figure? It can be anyone. Who would you like to cast as the focus of your story?

What kind of situation does your main character experience? Is it oddly familiar? Or oddly unfamiliar? How does the main character feel? Scared? Excited? Is the situation funny or mysterious?

Be sure to offer some insight into the mind of your character. Let us know how these weird sensations make him or her feel.

When you’re finished, we’d love to read your story. Email it to us or post it on Facebook. We can’t wait to see what you come up with. And, hey, maybe we’ve heard it all before!

 

Still Wondering

Explore Science NetLinks’ Changing Illusions interactive to see five illusions that show how certain patterns trick our eyes and brains.

 

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