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[klair-voi-uh nt] /klɛərˈvɔɪ ənt/
having or claiming to have the power of seeing objects or actions beyond the range of natural vision:
Not being clairvoyant, I did not foresee the danger of ignoring her advice.
of, by, or pertaining to clairvoyance:
Unlike more talented witches, I had to make do with love potions and occasional clairvoyant visions.
a clairvoyant person:
A clever clairvoyant could make a fortune in the stock market.
1665-75; < French, equivalent to clair clear + voyant seeing (present participle of voir to see < Latin vidēre; see -ant)
Related forms
clairvoyantly, adverb
Word story
Clairvoyant literally means “clear-sighted” in French, and for nearly 200 years that is what it meant in English as well. It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that it took on the meaning of “having psychic gifts” or “seeing beyond” that it carries today.
In the 19th century, the term clairvoyant was widely used in a medical context. An especially astute doctor might be able to see a patient’s symptoms and try to make a “clairvoyant diagnosis.” While some of these doctors were legitimate and extremely skilled, the term “clairvoyant physician” was generally used to describe your typical 19th-century quack. Occasionally, these people were brought to justice. The 39th Volume of The Journal of the American Medical Association contains an article about one such court case, from 1898, in which one can find this rant: “Whether the plaintiff calls herself a medical clairvoyant, or a clairvoyant physician…matters little…it was held that she was not entitled to recover for her services, she having no license to practice medicine.”
As the meaning of clairvoyant started to shift, reference books of the time attempted to approximate the new uses of the word. The 1873 edition of The American Cyclopaedia describes a clairvoyant as someone who can see through opaque objects, therefore possessing the power to “read a book unopened, or a letter which is enclosed in a solid wood box.” Today, however, clairvoyant carries more spiritual connotations, and such skills would never be cheapened by freak-show displays like divining the text of an unopened book. Rather, the modern clairvoyant prefers only to “see” things that cannot be easily refuted by disbelieving skeptics.
Related Quotations
“His younger sisters had joked that he was clairvoyant because he always knew they were in trouble before they did.“
—Elizabeth Lowell, Moving Target (2002)
“I was asked one day by a young woman to buy tickets for a lecture on clairvoyance…[H]er clairvoyant powers ought to have informed her that I had no intention of purchasing tickets to her lecture.“
—John Milne Bramwell, Hypnotism: Its History, Practice and Theory (1903)
“Individuals gifted with clairvoyant vision have an advantage above those who depend solely on the five senses of perception.“
—Thomas White, Visions of a Tibetan Master: Through Chaos to Logos (2007)
“[A] clairvoyant might read and interpret spirit messages though a range of tools including tarot cards and crystals.“
—Elizabeth Hallam, Jenny Hockey, Glennys Howarth, Beyond the Body: Death and Social Identity (1999) Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for clairvoyant
  • Unless you were a clairvoyant you would have to guess at the future price of the bond.
  • To make such a confident prediction you would have to be clairvoyant.
  • Judging by the next article he seems to be clairvoyant.
  • Nor would it be to me of surprising worth that some gifted clairvoyant could see the form.
  • The authors of this study do not pretend to be clairvoyant.
  • The government, however, wants the defendants to be clairvoyant.
  • You are clairvoyant developing the secret skill we all have.
British Dictionary definitions for clairvoyant


of, possessing, or relating to clairvoyance
having great insight or second sight
a person claiming to have the power to foretell future events
Derived Forms
clairvoyantly, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for clairvoyant

"having psychic gifts," 1837, earlier "having insight" (1670s), from special use of French clairvoyant "clear-sighted, discerning, judicious" (13c.), from clair (see clear (adj.)) + voyant "seeing," present participle of voir, from Latin videre "to see" (see vision).


1834 in the psychic sense; see clairvoyant (adj.). Earlier it was used in the sense "clear-sighted person" (1794). Fem. form was Clairvoyante.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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