Déjà vu neologisms:

Thirty déjà experiences; four nosological subtypes1

Dear Editor:

The term déjà vu refers informally to the “as if” experience—as if it’s happened before, yet it hasn’t. It is also possibly the most commonly used French term in the English language and is a fertile source for neologisms, and, indeed, in my Telicom article on neologisms (XXII-2, 2009)2, I alluded to the déjà vu phenomenon as a remarkable area for new terms. Déjà vu:

• derives from a foreign language (French),

• involves more neologisms than in any other study discipline, and

• has been a major source of personal interest and research for me, to the extent that I am curator and author of déjà Vu on Scholarpedia.org.

However, I did not discuss the fascinating new terms relating to the various kinds of déjà

experience in the above article3. To fill that void, I give a perspective below.

First, the lighter side of déjà vu4—what it isn’t:

Déjà boo: The feeling that I’ve been frightened like this before

Déjà coup: The feeling my government has been overthrown like this before.

Déjà do: The feeling my hairdresser has given me this cut before.

Déjà eau: The feeling I’ve smelled this perfume before.

These terms are unacceptable neologisms because they serve only one purpose—humor. They are neither parsimonious nor educational. Like all neologisms, new déjà vu terms must be valuable for their significant empirical or theoretical scientific phenomenological contributions. The older déjà experiences5 (a neologism itself) traditionally derive from French terms: We have continued this application even in English phrases.6

The French term, déjà vu, is the most familiar déjà experience. It was originally longer: ‘le sentiment du déjà vu’ (Boirac, 1876)7, and ‘sensation du déjà vu’ (Arnaud, 1896). Meanwhile, tongue-tying alternatives conveying relatively equivalent meanings—the fausse reconnaissance or fausse mémoire of Bernard-Leroy, Biervliet (1894), Freud, Heymans and Laurent; or the souvenir du présent of Bergson; or the reconnaissance des phénomènes nouveaux of Bourdon; or the falsa intuizione di ricordo of Montesano, and the German Erinnerungsfälschunges (Kraepelin) or fälschen Wiedererkennens (Lehmann and Linwurzky)—were largely consigned to the dusty archives of forgotten history. Déjà Vu—(literally “already seen”) is the generic déjà experience. My definition is now universally used: “any subjectively inappropriate impression of familiarity of the present experience with an undefined past. 8

Are the different forms of déjà vu so different that we needed to coin new terms for what I was generically calling déjà experiences? Two key pretenders to déjà vu itself are: déjà éprouvé—already experienced, felt, attempted, or tried: This fails as a broad generic term because “experienced” here is in the sense of attempted or tried9 and déjà vécu— implies already lived through, fully experienced or recollected, intense experiential term, but fails because ‘experienced’ here is the sense of fully experienced, recollected, or lived through, which would exclude much déjà vu.

By the time of my research in the late 1970s, there were already 9 other lesser known déjà terms all decades old, though some such as déjà voulu were purely theoretical, as true examples were unavailable:

déjà fait already done

déjà entendu already heard

déjà fait already done

déjà pensé already thought

déjà raconté already told

déjà senti already felt emotionally, smelt

déjà su already known (intellectually)

déjà trouvé already found (met)

déjà voulu already wanted

In this context, I wrote (1981): “At times the demarcation is artificial, as the déjà experience can coexist in more than one of the above categories. Moreover, the literature and my experience indicate that there are several other common kinds of déjà experience that have not yet been categorized”10 For legitimate research, we needed a more adequate vocabulary of subtypes of déjà vu.

I suggested ten new terms:11

déjà arrivé already happened

déjà connu already known (personal knowing)

déjà dit already said/spoken (content of speech)

déjà goûté already tasted

déjà lu already read

déjà parlé already spoken (act of speech)

déjà pressenti already ‘sensed’ (as in ‘knew’ it would happen)

déjà rencontré already met

déjà rêvé already dreamt

déjà visité already visited (a locality)

By a felicitous coincidence, déjà visité and déjà rêvé were independently developed in theses by Dr Art Funkhouser in Switzerland and I in 1981.12 In 2006, I began the long, arduous process of updating my original 1983 book on déjà vu (“The Psychology of Déjà Vu” to “Déjà Vu Revisited”), updating the literature (“Déjà vu: A Second Look”) and creating a glossary and bibliography (“Déjà vu: Glossary and

Library”)13 This process has been fruitful in many ways for my continual rethinking of the topic. I realized we needed six more kinds of déjà experience.—the following borne from necessity:

déjà paradoxe already paradoxical14; reflecting the exact déjà differentness being familiar.

déjà après already after: reflecting post-ictal/ seizure experiences)

déjà ésotérique already esoterically perceived: with special significances often psychotic

déjà rétrosenti already sensed: as a reanimation of living into the past

déjà halluciné already hallucinated: I’ve hallucinated this before—an intriguing experience!

déjà touché already touched: physical sensation; completing all the physical senses.

The thirtieth déjà variant is being announced for the first time now: déjà préconnaître—already precognized; psychics who feel they have had the same future impression before although realistically knowing this was incorrect. Déjà vu research involves screening for all kinds of déjà experiences using questions pertaining to these different déjà subtypes and then amplifying. These terms, therefore, have become part of the most comprehensive questionnaire on the topic.15 Otherwise we may remain unaware of their presence particularly in patients with psychosis (originally schizophrenia) (Psychotic Déjà Vu), temporal lobe disease (Temporal Lobe Déjà Vu), in subjective paranormal experients (Subjective Paranormal Experience Déjà Vu), and in ostensible normals (Associative Déjà Vu— the common garden subtype in ordinary individuals.) These, for historical completeness, are the 4 legitimate, neologisms reflecting the different nosological categories of déjà experience I described. They occur with specific features, in different subpopulations, and are nosologically distinct, implying possible different causalities for each.16 Neologisms have relevance and meaning. The different subtypes of déjà experience incorporate all these different new terms allowing for further research in this fascinating area.


Vernon M Neppe MD, PhD, FRSSAf, DFAPA

*For references and endnotes, please refer to www.PNI.org/déjà/neologisms

Dr Neppe is Director of the Pacific Neuropsychiatric Institute in Seattle, WA, USA, (Adjunct Full) Professor of Psychiatry, St Louis U., St Louis, MO and author of four books on the déjà vu phenomenon.

2 Neppe, V. M.. The Neologism: A Personal Evolutionary Exploration. Telicom. 2009; 22: 2, April – June. In press.


Mineart, S, Bell, B. Déjà. What?, Déjà vu rhymes by Stacy Mineart and Bridget Bell. http://www.commonplacebook.com/humor/lists/dejavu.shtm, 2005. Described in Neppe, VM. Does the definition of déjà vu withstand a quarter of a century of research? In Neppe VM (Ed): Déjà Vu: A Second Look. Brainvoyage.com, Seattle. 2006, Chapter 15, 142-163.

Vernon Neppe 1981 (endnote #8). This generic hybrid is itself a neologism; it covers all the 30 different kinds listed.

19 new deja experiences and four new déjà vu nosological subtypes have been described by Prof. Vernon Neppe. 2 of these terms, déjà rêvé and déjà visité were independently described in the same year by Dr Art Funkhouser. With the 11 previous déjà experiences including déjà vu itself, these form the base for our vocabulary today.

Professor Emile Boirac was rector of the Dijon Academy in France and a famous psychic investigator, who published a letter using the term in the Révue Philosophiqu

Although this is the usual cited source, the earliest is my 4 volume Doctoral Thesis Neppe VM. A study of Déjà vu experience. PhD Med thesis. Johannesburg, University of the Witwatersrand. 1981; 1-1-588, Vol 1-4.

  1. These two terms are discussed in more detail in my book Neppe VM (Ed): Déjà Vu: A Second Look. Brainvoyage.com, Seattle. 2006.
  2. Neppe VM. The Psychology of Déjà Vu: Have I Been Here Before?

Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press. 1983. 1-277 & I-XLV.

  1. Ibid. Neppe VM. The Psychology of Déjà Vu: Have I Been Here Before?

Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press. 1983. 1-277 & I-XLV.

Funkhouser, AT. Déjà vu: Déjà rêvé. Unpublished diploma thesis. Küsnacht, Switzerland, C.G. Jung Institute, 1981,

www.brainvoyage.com: downloadable electronic books (publisher Brainvoyage.com, Seattle, 2006)

(the paradox of exact differentness or different sameness.) We know this use of an adjective moves away from the traditional use of past participle verbs (e.g. the ‘vu’ of deja vu is the past participle form of the verb voir, ‘to see’), but this appears the best option and at any rate is not so far off the mark, as the past participle forms of verbs are also sometimes used as adjectives.

Neppe, VM. The New Neppe Déjà Vu Questionnaire—2006 (NDVQ). In Neppe VM (Ed): Déjà Vu: A Second Look. Brainvoyage.com, Seattle. 2006, Chapter 20, 235-290.

Initially, I called “psychotic déjà vu” (2006, Déjà Vu: A Second Look by the name “schizophrenic déjà vu” (1981 thesis, The Psychology of Déjà Vu 1983)