• apercu •
Pronunciation: ah-pêr-su • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A perceptive insight. 2. A brief summary.
Notes: What should we do with the French beard on the C (aperçu) in the English spelling of this word? This is a question, I'm sure, you have struggled with throughout your life. The major dictionaries leave it on, but my spellchecker shaves it off. If you have difficulty finding it on your keyboard, just ignore it. On the other hand, the French spelling does make the word a bit cuter. The plural of today's word is, as we might expect, apercus (or aperçus).
In Play: Today's word works when you tire of using summary or the French word with the cap on the E, précis: "Farley, the entire history of your life is unnecessary; a simple apercu will suffice." The other sense gives your speech or writing a little lift when you wish to express the sense of an insight: "Frank's report was comprehensive, but lacked any pithy apercu into how we can solve the problem."
Word History: Today's word is the past participle of the French verb apercevoir "to perceive", freshly borrowed by English, beard and all. No attempt has been made to hide its point of origin. The French verb comes from Latin ad "(up) to" + percipere "to grasp, take possession of", comprising, in its turn, per- "through, thorough" + capere "to grasp, seize". The same root, kap-, became haben "have" in German and—guess what in English? We see the effects of capere in capture, capacious, intercept, and many other English words snipped from the Latin lexicon. (We are grateful for the aperçu of two of our editors, Mary Jane Stoneburg and Luciano Eduardo de Oliveira, that led to their suggesting today's Good Word.)