I think, the word "何となく" means as below

somehow or other; for some reason or another;

However, how it has been formed so that it means like above?


何となく is made up of:

  • 何【なん】と: contraction of...
    • 何【なに】: question-word "what"
    • と: quotative particle "(call/say) that"
  • なく: adverbial form of i-adjective ない ("not be"); "not being, without"

As a whole it means "without 'what'", or in more understandable English "without naming what (it is)", thus comes to represent a feeling that you can't pinpoint the specific reason.

Note that this phrase is already an idiom, with an undivided accent なんとなく{LHHHL} instead of etymological なんと{HLL}なく{HL}.

Similar constructions:

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