Printable Version
Pronunciation: pêr-sip-i-ênt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Able to perceive, perceptive, discerning (keenly).

Notes: Since all humans can perceive, when referring to people this word usually means "keenly perceptive, more perceptive than most". In philosophy and parapsychology this word may be used as a noun meaning "someone or something that perceives" and "someone who perceives things outside the normal range", respectively. We may use either percipience or percipiency as a noun referring to the percipient quality.

In Play: Percipient is simply a more exotic word for perceptive: "Seamus Allgood is a percipient standup comedian, a master of interacting with his audience." As a noun, this word refers to someone who claims to be able to perceive beyond the realms of perceptions of other mortals: "The percipient picked the correct card his partner had shown the audience but not him and put back into the deck two out of five times."

Word History: Today's Good Word came from the same source as perceive. Perceive was taken from Old French perceivre "to perceive, see, notice", inherited from Latin percipere "to seize entirely, take wholly, occupy; to see, perceive". The present participle of percipere is percipien(t)s, the source of today's word. This verb consists of per- "through, thorough" + cip-, the combining form of capere "to grab, take". Capere was made of PIE kap- "to grasp, grab", source also of Sanskrit kapati "two handfuls", Greek kaptein "to gulp down", and Latin capax "capacious". We also see evidence of kap- in Welsh caeth "captive", Albanian kap "grab, catch", English have and German haben "to have". (Now a word of thanks to wordmaster William Hupy, a most percipient collector of exciting Good Words like today's.)

Dr. Goodword,

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