sa·​pi·​ent ˈsā-pē-ənt How to pronounce sapient (audio)
: possessing or expressing great sagacity
sapiently adverb

Did you know?

We human beings certainly like to think we’re wise. It’s a fact reflected in the scientific name we’ve given our species, Homo sapiens, which comes in part from the Latin word sapiens, meaning “wise” or “intelligent.” Sapient (which is basically just a fancy synonym of wise) has the same source. Both words ultimately trace to the Latin verb sapere, meaning “to be wise,” and also “to taste.” Other sapere words pepper the language as well, among them sage (as in “sage advice”), savant, savvy, and savor.

Choose the Right Synonym for sapient

wise, sage, sapient, judicious, prudent, sensible, sane mean having or showing sound judgment.

wise suggests great understanding of people and of situations and unusual discernment and judgment in dealing with them.

wise beyond his tender years

sage suggests wide experience, great learning, and wisdom.

the sage advice of my father

sapient suggests great sagacity and discernment.

the sapient musings of an old philosopher

judicious stresses a capacity for reaching wise decisions or just conclusions.

judicious parents using kindness and discipline in equal measure

prudent suggests the exercise of restraint guided by sound practical wisdom and discretion.

a prudent decision to wait out the storm

sensible applies to action guided and restrained by good sense and rationality.

a sensible woman who was not fooled by flattery

sane stresses mental soundness, rationality, and levelheadedness.

remained sane even in times of crises

Examples of sapient in a Sentence

an uncle who is always good for valuable insights and some sapient advice
Recent Examples on the Web Of course, there is a chance that ours is the only sapient world in a vast and silent cosmos. David Grinspoon, Scientific American, 1 Sep. 2016 Which is why mildly sapient readers should be immediately skeptical. John Tamny, Forbes, 19 Dec. 2022 The reason for this is that a focus on just four creature types (Party only cares about wizards, rogues, warriors and clerics) would have limited the design opportunities for the rest of the set, which includes plenty of non-sapient creatures. Joe Parlock, Forbes, 24 June 2021 Many wise and sapient social historians have written on the American cult, and invention, of the weekend. Adam Gopnik, Town & Country, 29 May 2020

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'sapient.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin sapient-, sapiens, from present participle of sapere to taste, be wise — more at sage

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of sapient was in the 15th century


Dictionary Entries Near sapient

Cite this Entry

“Sapient.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


sa·​pi·​ent ˈsā-pē-ənt How to pronounce sapient (audio)
sapiently adverb

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