: to understand
Did You Know?
While the noun savvy, meaning "practical know-how" (as in "her political savvy"), and the adjective use (as in "a savvy investor") are more common, the verb savvy is the oldest of the trio. (If you associate it with Captain Jack Sparrow of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, you'll be pleased to know his use—as in, "I'm Captain Jack Sparrow. Savvy?"—is not anachronistic; the verb was the only savvy option extant in the movies' early 18th-century setting.) Current evidence dates the verb savvy to the late 17th century, when English speakers altered a word—sabi, meaning "know"—they were hearing in English-based creoles and pidgins (a pidgin is a simplified language or dialect that speakers of different languages use to communicate with one another; a creole is a language that evolves from a pidgin to become a native language for a speech community). Sabi has its roots in Portuguese sabe, meaning "he knows," and it ultimately comes from Latin sapere, meaning "to be wise."
"The agency's Denver office sent Siringo, who savvied some Spanish, to Santa Fe." — Ollie Reed Jr., The Albuquerque (New Mexico) Tribune, 30 June 2001
"And kudos to Stan for the sensitivity. Savvying the tension between Ted and Peggy, Stan offers a sincere, 'Buck up chief.'" — Marisa Nadolny, The Day (New London, Connecticut), 18 Apr. 2014
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Word Family Quiz
Fill in the blanks to complete an adjective that is derived from Latin sapere and has the meaning "possessing or expressing great sagacity": s _ p _ _ n _.VIEW THE ANSWER
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