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wit1

[wit] /wɪt/
noun
1.
the keen perception and cleverly apt expression of those connections between ideas that awaken amusement and pleasure.
2.
speech or writing showing such perception and expression.
3.
a person having or noted for such perception and expression.
4.
understanding, intelligence, or sagacity; astuteness.
Synonyms: wisdom, sense, mind.
5.
Usually, wits.
  1. powers of intelligent observation, keen perception, ingenious contrivance, or the like; mental acuity, composure, and resourcefulness:
    using one's wits to get ahead.
  2. mental faculties; senses:
    to lose one's wits; frightened out of one's wits.
    Synonyms: mind, sanity; brains, marbles.
Idioms
6.
at one's wit's end, at the end of one's ideas or mental resources; perplexed:
My two-year-old won't eat anything but pizza, and I'm at my wit's end.
7.
keep / have one's wits about one, to remain alert and observant; be prepared for or equal to anything:
to keep your wits about you in a crisis.
8.
live by one's wits, to provide for oneself by employing ingenuity or cunning; live precariously:
We traveled around the world, living by our wits.
Origin
900
before 900; Middle English, Old English: mind, thought; cognate with German Witz, Old Norse vit; akin to wit2
Synonym Study
Humor, wit refer to an ability to perceive and express a sense of the clever or amusing. Humor consists principally in the recognition and expression of incongruities or peculiarities present in a situation or character. It is frequently used to illustrate some fundamental absurdity in human nature or conduct, and is generally thought of as more kindly than wit: a genial and mellow type of humor; his biting wit. Wit is a purely intellectual manifestation of cleverness and quickness of apprehension in discovering analogies between things really unlike, and expressing them in brief, diverting, and often sharp observations or remarks.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for live by our wits

wit1

/wɪt/
noun
1.
the talent or quality of using unexpected associations between contrasting or disparate words or ideas to make a clever humorous effect
2.
speech or writing showing this quality
3.
a person possessing, showing, or noted for such an ability, esp in repartee
4.
practical intelligence (esp in the phrase have the wit to)
5.
(Scot & Northern English, dialect) information or knowledge (esp in the phrase get wit of)
6.
(archaic) mental capacity or a person possessing it
7.
(obsolete) the mind or memory
See also wits
Word Origin
Old English witt; related to Old Saxon giwitt, Old High German wizzi (German Witz), Old Norse vit, Gothic witi. See wit²

wit2

/wɪt/
verb
1.
(archaic) to be or become aware of (something)
adverb
2.
to wit, that is to say; namely (used to introduce statements, as in legal documents)
Word Origin
Old English witan; related to Old High German wizzan (German wissen), Old Norse vita, Latin vidēre to see
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 live by our wits

wit

n.

"mental capacity," Old English wit, more commonly gewit, from Proto-Germanic *witjan (cf. Old Saxon wit, Old Norse vit, Danish vid, Swedish vett, Old Frisian wit, Old High German wizzi "knowledge, understanding, intelligence, mind," German Witz "wit, witticism, joke," Gothic unwiti "ignorance"), from PIE *woid-/*weid-/*wid- "to see," metaphorically "to know" (see vision). Related to Old English witan "to know" (source of wit (v.)). Meaning "ability to make clever remarks in an amusing way" is first recorded 1540s; that of "person of wit or learning" is from late 15c. For nuances of usage, see humor.

A witty saying proves nothing. [Voltaire, Diner du Comte de Boulainvilliers]



Wit ought to be five or six degrees above the ideas that form the intelligence of an audience. [Stendhal, "Life of Henry Brulard"]

v.

"know," Old English witan "to know," from Proto-Germanic *witanan "to have seen," hence "to know" (cf. Old Saxon witan, Old Norse vita, Old Frisian wita, Middle Dutch, Dutch weten, Old High German wizzan, German wissen, Gothic witan "to know"); see wit (n.). The phrase to wit, almost the only surviving use of the verb, is first recorded 1570s, from earlier that is to wit (mid-14c.), probably a loan-translation of Anglo-French cestasavoir, used to render Latin videlicet (see viz.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for live by our wits

wit

Related Terms

nitwit


The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Related Abbreviations for live by our wits

WIT

witness (shortwave transmission)
The American Heritage® Abbreviations Dictionary, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Idioms and Phrases with live by our wits
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Encyclopedia Article for live by our wits

wit

communication in which the stimulus produces amusement

Learn more about wit with a free trial on Britannica.com
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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