Printable Version
Pronunciation: ê-styut Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Shrewd, perspicacious, discerning, especially in respect to one's own interests.

Notes: This word is one we want associated with our names. We have seen so many pejorative adjectives in the past, I thought a change of pace might be refreshing. This word comes with a perfectly straightforward adverb, astutely, and a noun, astuteness.

In Play: The meaning of today's word is "shrewd in discerning one's own self interest": "Robin Banks was very astute to change his mind about holding up the cafe when he noticed a half dozen policemen sipping coffee there." He wasn't very astute in choosing robbery as a profession in the first place. "Sonny Day was very astute to buy up a lot of dot com URLs in the mid 90s."

Word History: Today's Good Word goes back to a borrowing from Latin, astutus "expert, shrewd, sagacious", the adjective for astus "craft". We can see how far the Latin word traveled over time by the path of its meanings. The original Proto-Indo-European wes-/wos- word seems to have meant "to live, dwell, pass the night", which was later extended to "be". The Latin word was borrowed from Greek astu "town (place where one lives)". It came to Old English as ws "was" and wre "were", variants of "be".

It also came to rest in English as wassail "spiced wine, a toast with spiced wine", from Middle English wæshæil "be healthy". Middle English borrowed this word from Old Norse ves heill: ves "be" + heill "healthy", related to German heil "safe, sound" and English hale, as in hale and hearty. The carol Here we come a-wassailing came from an era when the poor went from house to house entreating the owners for a cup of wassail in exchange for a carol. (Ellen Adams made an astute choice when she decided to submit today's Good Word to alphaDictionary. We thank her for that.)

Dr. Goodword,

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