• perspicacity •
pêr-spê-kæ-sê-ti • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass (no plural)
Meaning: The ability to see things clearly and make sound judgments based on that vision.
Notes: This good word shares a special bond with the adjective, "perspicacious" [pêr-spê-key-shês]. Remember that both words contain a hard "c" (pronounced [k]) and a soft one (pronounced [s])?but both are Cs. Both Cs follow the general rule in English: [c] is hard before vowels pronounced in the back of the mouth (a, o, u) and soft before those pronounced in the front (i, e).
In Play: This word refers to shrewdness and astuteness based on accurate observation, as in "He showed considerable marital perspicacity in not introducing the new secretary to his wife for several weeks." It is a very useful capacity to have: "It was very perspicacious of Lois Riske to recognize the ulterior motives in Les Cheatham's plan to merge their bank accounts."
Word History: Today's good word is a remodel of the Latin adjective perspicax, -acis "sharp-sighted, penetrating," which contains the prefix-preposition per "through, over, along" and specere "to look at", a root also found in "inspect", "spectator", and "suspect". Although the spelling of frontispiece was influenced by the spelling of piece, it originates in French frontispice from Latin frontispicium "façade of a building", based on frons, frontis "forehead, front" + this same "specere". Other famous members of this family include species and spice, which come from the same Latin word, species "kind", which by Late Latin meant "wares, goods" and by Old French, "spice". We slipped a copy out of Old French, then went back to Latin later for a scientific word with the original meaning.
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