1. Acutely perceptive judgment which enables good decision making

  2. Intelligent and discriminating use of knowledge


Do you know some people with sagacity in your life? It's good to have people like that to ask for advice, and it's probably even better to have some sagacity of your own. Sagacity refers to incisive wisdom or sharp discernment. It can be applied generally or to any specific area of knowledge. Most often sagacity has something to do with perceiving the nature of a thing or situation, especially as it aids in good decision making. For example, if you were describing the brilliant Athenian statesman Pericles, you might state, "Pericles' sagacity in both civic rule and military craft might have led Athens to victory in the Peloponnesian War had he not fallen victim to the plague." In this case, you're describing Pericles' capacity for clever decision making in statecraft, but you could use the word similarly in a more mundane context as well. Thus, if you were helping out at a daycare and saw Ms. Dully pacify a rowdy mob of children with a mixture of sternness and the promise of snacks for the well behaved, you might exclaim, "Ms. Dully's sagacity in the ways of children is remarkable!"

Alternatively, you might use the word to describe someone whose judgment you trust in general. For instance, you might advise your cousin Linda, "Ask Uncle Dewy what he would do. That man's sagacity never ceases to amaze me." Here, you would be indicating to Linda that your Uncle Dewy has a unique ability to assess situations and make the right decision. That's an ability we could all use some more of! You could also phrase things a little differently and remark, "The sagacity of Uncle Dewy's advice has helped me through a lot of troubles!" In this case, sagacity is being used to describe the quality of Uncle Dewy's advice rather than directly as a characteristic possessed by Uncle Dewy.

Example: What the mayor lacked in virtue, he compensated for with his political sagacity.

Example: Grandma's sagacity was acquired after a lifetime of studying human nature and learning through her own experience.


Sagacity entered English around the turn of the 16th century. It is taken from the Middle French sagacite, which derives from the Latin sagacitatem. Both the French and Latin terms refer to an acuity of perception or wisdom. The Latin word stems from the adjective sagus, which means "having to do with a prophet," and from the verb sagire, which means "to perceive acutely." Both of these terms descend ultimately from the Proto-Indo European root sag, meaning roughly "to closely pursue" or "to trace."

Derivative Words

Sage: As a noun, sage refers to an exceptionally wise or learned person; and, as an adjective, it describes such a person or the counsel given by such a person.

Example: The family looked to Grandfather as a sage in all matters of domestic life.

Example: Everyone in the family valued Grandfather's sage advice.

Sagacious: This adjective form describes someone or something as exhibiting wisdom or prudence.

Example: The sagacious laws of the city kept peace among the people even in times of crisis.

Sagaciousness: This noun form, which is synonymous with sagacity, refers to the condition of being sagacious.

Example: The sagaciousness of Clementine's financial planning kept her business afloat even through the recession.

Sagaciously: This adverb form describes an action performed in a sagacious fashion.

Example: Sedgwick sagaciously chose not to reveal his true intentions to Mr. Thornton.

In Literature

From Joseph Addison's Happiness Not Independent:

There is not any present moment that is unconnected with some future one. The life of every man is a continued chain of incidents, each link of which hangs upon the former. The transition from cause to effect, from event to event, is often carried on by secret steps, which our foresight cannot divine, and our sagacity is unable to trace. Evil may at some future period bring forth good; and good may bring forth evil, both equally unexpected.

Here, Addison suggests that even the keenest sagacity (i.e. the kind of keen judgment which traces causes and effect) cannot perfectly predict the influence of present events on the future or trace the effect of past events on the present.


  • A sagacious sage has much sagacity!

  • A city populated by wise counselors,
    Would be a "sage city"
    Filled with sagacity.


Wisdom, Prudence, Intelligence, Decisions, Counsel

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