• prescient •
Pronunciation: pre-shênt (US), pre-si-ênt (UK) • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: Foreseeing, possessing foreknowledge, cognizant of the future
Notes: Back before science acquired its current meaning, it meant "knowledge, cognizance", and was more closely related to today's word. The noun from this adjective is prescience and the adverb, presciently.
In Play: Prescient is quite topical today: "Had the DC constabulary been a little more prescient of the events of January 6, 2020, those events would have been less appalling." Around the house or on the job, this word is quite useful every day: "Anita Job's very name was prescient of her future at the company."
Word History: Today's Good Word has been in French since Old French. It came from Latin prescien(t)s "foreseeing", the present participle of prescire "to foresee, foreknow", made up of pre- "before" + scire "to know". Latin scire seems to have come from PIE skei- "to cut, split". The sense must have migrated from "split, separate (the real from the false)" to "discern" and from there to "know". It landed in Old English as scitan "to defecate". I'll leave it to you to figure out what that word is today. Skive "to pare, cut in thin layers" was borrowed from an Old Norwegian (Viking) word of the same PIE source. Schism and skizo- were borrowed from Greek derivations from skizein "to split". (Today's fascinating Good Word was another recommended by Patricia Castellanos, our long-time friend and French and English translator in Montevideo, Uruguay.)