Thursday, June 02, 2011

Of Sight, Smell, Needles, and Dog

I used the word perspicacious in the quiz at the end of yesterday’s program. It was multiple choice: perspicacious—(a) sweaty (b) restricted (c) dimwitted (d) astute.

The answer is (d) astute. Perspicacity, the noun form of the word, came from a Latin word meaning having keen or penetrating sight. It quickly moved from a strictly physical sense to a mental sense. Perspicuous occasionally means the same thing, but it is often reserved for the meaning “clearly expressed or lucid.”

Mental acuity also refers to sharpness of intellect. It came from a Latin word meaning a needle.

Sagacious (noun form sagacity) came from a Latin word that referred to the acute sense of smell possessed by animals, especially hounds. It morphed into acuteness of mental discernment.

At first, pellucid referred to a transparent substance that allowed the passage of light. Eventually, it was used to describe a person with mentally clear perception.

NOTE: Words to the Wise received a favorable review in Andrea McDougal’s Word Nerds Rejoice: Top 25 Blogs For Editing Geeks.

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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