Saturday, May 17, 2014


A listener asked about the word perspicacity. It means insight, the ability to go beneath the surface, the act of seeing through a situation. It comes to us from two Latin words: per, through, and specere, to see or observe. Its obsolete opposite was imperspicuity.

Many words have used the –spic– root. They include auspice (patronage or a favorable sign), which came from auspex, the seer who interpreted omens by observing birds. His counterpart practiced haruspication, divination by inspecting animal entrails.

Another old term, occurring in the 17th century, was circumspicuous, something that could be seen from all sides. Conspicuous (plainly evident) is a useful word, as is inconspicuous, its antonym.

Prospicience (foresight) looks forward, and retrospicience looks back, while something despicable is simply looked down upon.

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

Nook edition

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.


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