sa·​ga·​cious | \ sə-ˈgā-shəs How to pronounce sagacious (audio) , si-\

Definition of sagacious

1a : of keen and farsighted penetration and judgment : discerning sagacious judge of character
b : caused by or indicating acute discernment sagacious purchase of stock
2 obsolete : keen in sense perception

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Other Words from sagacious

sagaciously adverb
sagaciousness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for sagacious


discerning, insightful, perceptive, prudent, sage, sapient, wise


unperceptive, unwise

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Choose the Right Synonym for sagacious

shrewd, sagacious, perspicacious, astute mean acute in perception and sound in judgment. shrewd stresses practical, hardheaded cleverness and judgment. a shrewd judge of character sagacious suggests wisdom, penetration, and farsightedness. sagacious investors got in on the ground floor perspicacious implies unusual power to see through and understand what is puzzling or hidden. a perspicacious counselor saw through the child's facade astute suggests shrewdness, perspicacity, and diplomatic skill. an astute player of party politics

The Surprising Root of Sagacious

You might expect the root of sagacious to be sage, which means "wise" or "wise man," but that wouldn't be a wise assumption. Despite their similarities, the two words are not all that closely related. Sagacious traces back to sagire, a Latin verb meaning "to perceive keenly." It's also related to the Latin adjective sagus ("prophetic"), which is the ancestor of our verb seek. Etymologists believe that sage comes from a different Latin verb, sapere, which means "to taste," "to have good taste," or "to be wise."

Hidden Meaning of Sagacious

Sagacious entered the English language around the beginning of the 17th century and, for some decades, referred to perceptiveness of sight, taste, and especially, smell. One of the first authors to use the word, Edward Topsell, wrote in 1607 of bees searching for something with “a most sagacious smelling-sence.” Sagacious has largely lost the sense (no pun intended) of being keen in sensory perception, and now almost exclusively means "of keen judgment, discerning.” The upshot is that English has words for the state of possessing acute vision (such as far-sighted) and a fine sense of touch (such as sensitive), but lacks any adjectives describing an excellent sense of smell.

Examples of sagacious in a Sentence

… the winner is praised for his sagacious grasp of the hopes and anxieties of the public, the loser is excoriated for the many and obvious blunders that derailed his candidacy … — Hendrik Hertzberg, New Yorker, 18 Dec. 2000 It has allowed him to pre-empt conservative political attacks, to appear sagacious despite his inexperience … — Alan Tonelson, Atlantic, June 1993 With commendably sagacious foresight, I sneaked spoils as well to the elders of key Judean cities whose good will I was cultivating for the future … — Joseph Heller, God Knows, 1984 It has been suggested that we go to sleep at night because it is then too dark to do anything else; but owls, who are a venerably sagacious folk, do not sleep in the night-time. — James Stephens, The Crock of Gold, 1912 a sagacious critique of the current social climate in our nation
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Recent Examples on the Web

The young team is guided by a trio of sagacious celestial beings called the Misses, who challenge Meg to tap into her innate powers. Alisha Acquaye, GQ, "How Janelle Monáe (and Black Panther) Travel Through Time and Space," 2 May 2018 That’s potentially even more potent if Barkley is The Guy and a sagacious veteran like Eli Manning is running the show. Andy Benoit,, "NFL Draft Needs: All 32 Teams," 25 Apr. 2018 His response was sagacious: Financial results are probably a lagging indicator of a bad culture. Aaron Pressman, Fortune, "Data Sheet—Why Workday Will Cut Loose a Top Performer," 9 Mar. 2018 Most opt for straightforward assertions of Odysseus’s nature, descriptions running from the positive (crafty, sagacious, versatile) to the negative (shifty, restless, cunning). Wyatt Mason, New York Times, "The First Woman to Translate the ‘Odyssey’ Into English," 2 Nov. 2017 According to Logan Martell at Operawire, in the piece Rhoda is tasked by her sagacious grandfather with trying to envision a living deinocheirus, a very strange long-armed dinosaur, from just a fossilized talon. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Watch a Dinosaur Opera at New York’s American Museum of Natural History," 27 Sep. 2017 Back when the wonders of the Internet were the objects of sagacious prediction, who knew that one would be a lesser version of a decoder ring? Theodore Kupfer, National Review, "Verrit Might Make Clintonistas Feel Better, but It Won’t Do Much Else," 8 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'sagacious.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of sagacious

1607, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for sagacious

Latin sagac-, sagax, from sagire to perceive keenly; akin to Latin sagus prophetic — more at seek

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The first known use of sagacious was in 1607

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English Language Learners Definition of sagacious

formal : having or showing an ability to understand difficult ideas and situations and to make good decisions


sa·​ga·​cious | \ sə-ˈgā-shəs How to pronounce sagacious (audio) \

Kids Definition of sagacious

: quick and wise in understanding and judging

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