• The ability to envision or predict the course of events before they transpire


Has someone you know ever made an eerily accurate prediction of what would eventually happen? Experts in many fields offer up their own predictions as to how the things they study will develop, but the kind of prophecy at issue here is the kind that one makes with no extraordinary knowledge on the subject. The predictor simply offers an insightful (or lucky) prediction that later reveals itself to be unmistakably true. What is displayed here is a moment of prescience.

Prescience is the capacity to foresee the events that eventually happen. A person does not have to literally know the course of the future with certainty to exhibit prescience, but may simply guess at what will happen closely enough to be conclusively proven correct. Thus, while one does not need to have the omniscience of a god for their guesses to show prescience, the prophecies that such an entity would issue would certainly be prescient!

No matter what power or insight affords this accurate view of the future, both people and things can be said to display prescience. A person could have prescience by exactly guessing the score of the football game before kickoff, but so would a pregame analysis article where the author calls the game's score. As long as it proves itself right, anything can show the prescience of its prediction.

Example: The finance minister's debt reduction policy showed prescience when it shielded the economy from the global recession.

Example: The sportscaster displayed such prescience in predicting boxing match winners that his picks influenced the odds in major casinos.


The word prescience first saw use in English in the late 14th century, deriving from the Old French form of the word, prescience. This, in turn, traces its roots from the Late Latin praescientia, meaning "foreknowledge," and, before that, the Latin word praesciens. The latter is a form of praescire, which means "to know before," and splits into the prefix prae- for "before," and scire, which is also the root for science and means "to know."

Derivative Words

Prescient: This adjective form of prescience describes a person or thing as demonstrating predictive understanding of what eventually occurs.

Example: The government's investment in renewable energy decades ago was prescient considering the quickening pace of global warming.

Presciently: The adverb form of the word depicts when an action is being taken in a way that shows a keen insight into what may transpire in the future.

Example: She presciently stocked up on water and non-perishable food in case of a natural disaster.

In Literature

From Jon Ronson's The Men Who Stare at Goats:

In 1983 Colonel Burns wrote a poem in which he envisioned how his fledgling communications network might one day influence the world.

Imagine the emergence of a new meta-culture.
Imagine all kinds of people everywhere
getting committed to human excellence,
getting committed to closing the gap
between the human condition
and the human potential...
And imagine all of us hooked up
with a common high tech communications system.
That's a vision that brings tears to the eyes.
Human excellence is an ideal
that we can embed
into every formal human structure
on our planet.
And that's really why we're going to do this.
And that's also why
The Meta Network is a creation
we can love.

Notwithstanding Colonel Burns's failure to foresee that people would use the Internet mostly to access porn and look themselves up on Google, his prescience was admirable.

Here, the narrator cleverly comments that while Colonel Burns did not precisely foresee the common usages of to the modern Internet, he did show keen foresight, or prescience, regarding the emergence of a network to interconnect humanity.


  • With prescience, you predict what ends up happening.


Future, Prediction

Bring out the linguist in you! What is your own interpretation of prescience. Did you use prescience in a game? Provide an example sentence or a literary quote.