say-pee-ênt • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: (Poetic) Wise, intelligent; aware, conscious.
Notes: Biologically, we are all sapient to the extent we belong to the species homo sapiens "wise man(kind)". However, some moments of our history bring that sapience into question. Which reminds me that the adverb of today's word is sapiently and the noun, sapience.
In Play: Today's Good Word substitutes for wise when you are not sure if you want everyone to understand you: "Marjorie followed the sapient advice of her mother, that it is just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as with a poor one." However, its relative rarity and poetic bent has led it to a generally more facetious service: "Our sapient leaders have brought us to the point where foreign powers can buy up our ports, stock markets, and various other businesses while we borrow money from them."
Word History: Apparently our ancestors associated wisdom with taste for today's Good Word wended its way down from Latin sapien(t)s "tasting, knowing, wise", the present participle of sapere "to taste, to savor". This makes homo sapiens a bit ambiguous between "men of wisdom" and "men of taste". Insipid "tasteless" is the negation of sapid "having taste". Both are based on the same Latin verb. Yes, English sap in the sense of the liquid that rises in trees at springtime is related, for the sap of some trees, like the sugar maple, is considered tasty. It is genuinely ironic (and coincidental) that a sap in US slang today is someone who is just the opposite of wise. (Today we thank Katy Brezger, a woman who speaks with both taste and wisdom in our Alpha Agora, for suggesting this word.)
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