• envisage •
en-viz-ij • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, transitive
Meaning: 1. To visualize, to contemplate, to imagine the future, to form a mental image of something not yet existing or known. 2. To foresee, to predict, to envision.
Notes: People who can envisage are a rarity. The most prominent examples of people who could envisage the future are Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. We have our choice of two nouns, envisaging or envisagement. The former may be used as an adjective, too.
In Play: The Internet is quickly becoming an enormous encyclopedia of the world by the world. Can you envisage the world in which our (grand)children will grow up, having instant access to any knowledge they need as soon as they need it, all their lives? "Lucinda Head can hardly get her head around parking in the newly designed parking lot, let alone envisage what global warming will lead to."
Word History: Today's word comes from French envisager "to envisage, consider", composed of French en- "into, in" + visage "face, appearance". Visage comes to Old French from vis "face, appearance", the remnant of Latin visus "a look, vision", from the past participle stem of videre "to see". The Latin word was obtained from the PIE root weid- "to see, to know". The meaning of this word moved from "see" to "know", the same way it gets there from the English expression, I see "I know, understand". We see the same shift across the spectrum of Indo-European languages: Sanskrit veda "I know", Doric Greek woida "I know", Old English witan "to know", English wise, German wissen "to know". Russian and Polish went both ways: Polish widzieć "to see" alongside wiedzieć "to know", Russian videt' "to see" but vest' "news" from Old Russian vedat' "to know". (We could envisage Diane Lyons contributing another Good Word; she has contributed several in the past, all of which we are grateful for.)
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