transcendent vs transcendental


New Member
What's the difference between the two words? They are both adjectives and have almost similar meanings.
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Of course they overlap to a great degree, but in modern, everyday use 'transcendent' has more of a sense of "surpassing" or "extreme" and can be used outside of a metaphysical/mystical context: we might talk of transcendent beauty, or transcendent moral reasons. Then in a religious context, gods are transcendent - they have powers surpassing the natural - and mystical experiences are transcendent - they surpass what people ordinarily feel.

    'Transcendental' then tends to be used about things in or related to this subject matter: transcendental things are mystical, metaphysical, absolute, etc., with perhaps less sense that they are of the same kind as ordinary things which they surpass. (Of course this is all very vague, but that's all you're going to get for a difference.) So there is (claimed to be) transcendental knowledge, transcendental meditation, someone is a transcendental thinker, etc.
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