• savvy •
sæ-vi • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, adjective, verb
Meaning: 1. (Noun) Knowledge, acumen, astuteness. 2. (Adjective) Knowledgeable, shrewd, intelligent, smart, astute. 3. (Verb) Know, understand, realize, grasp.
Notes: Today's Good Word sneaked into English via a Spanish or Portuguese creole, which is an elaborate means of communication based on the use of words (not the grammar) from a different, usually regionally dominant, language. Since entering English, it has picked up an adverb, savvily, and a superfluous noun, savviness.
In Play: Savvy may be specialized: "She began showing her business savvy in the third grade by buying things from her classmates and selling them to kids in the lower grades for a profit." In its adjective usage, any modifier should be connected with a hyphen: "Media-savvy kids these days use their smart phones as extensions of their brains." The verbal use is rarer, usually as a sentence tag meaning "Do you understand": "Never do that again! Savvy?"
Word History: Savvy is a borrowing of some creole or dialectal representation of Spanish or Portuguese saber "to know", as the change of [b] to [v] shows. Both words derive from Latin sapere "to taste of; to know", which French converted to savoir "to know". Latin sapere was inherited from PIE root sep- "to taste, perceive". Old English inherited sep as sefa "mind, insight", a word that didn't make it to Modern English. Sapid "savory, having flavor; mentally pleasant" was borrowed from Latin sapidus "tasty, delicious", an adjective based on sapere. (Thank now the very savvy Eileen Opiolka, for her suggestion of today's sapid Good Word in the Agora.)
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