Printable Version
Pronunciation: prud-ênt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Acting reasonably with thought for the future, acting with foresight, conservative, cautious, judicious, provident, frugal.

Notes: Today's Good Word comes with sterling credentials. The noun accompanying this word is prudence, a word that so impressed our Puritan ancestors that they used it as a Christian first name for girls, Prudence. The adjective is prudential, the name of a US insurance company.

In Play: Prudent is usually used in ways that emphasize the wisdom of the action: "I assumed that Heddy Wein was doing the medically prudent thing when she declined every glass of wine offered her at the party." Remember, though, the basic meaning is "foresightful": "Phil Anders thought it prudent that he apologize to Marian Kine for driving her to the motel after dinner."

Word History: Today's word comes to us, via French, from Latin pruden(t)s, a contraction of providen(t)s, the present participle of providere "to provide" (look forward), made up of pro "forward, forth" videre "to see". Pro is the Latin variant of PIE per- "forward", from which Sanskrit created pari "around, through," Russian pere- "through, across", Lithuanian per "through", English for, German vor "for" and Old English fore, preserved today only in compounds like before and forecast. Latin videre (video "I see") descended from PIE weid- "to see", source also of Bulgarian vidya "I see", Russian videt' "to see" and Polish vidzieć "to see". Polish wiedzieć "to know" arose from the same semantic association that we see in the English use of see in the sense, "I see," meaning "I understand". This explains German wissen "to know" and English wise developing from the same PIE word. (Now it is necessary that we prudently thank Eileen Opiolka for recommending such an enlightening Good Word today.)

Dr. Goodword,

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