What does ‘percipience’ mean?

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: percipience….

When I read the marvellous novel, This is Happiness by Niall Williams, I knew I was going to learn a host of new words.

Like many well-educated Irish writers, Williams has a large vocabulary and a rococo, evocative wring style. The phrase “gift of the gab” springs to mind.

One of the new words he taught me was percipience. Here is how Williams used it:

At twilight, when it was time to bring the furniture back inside, Doady, with the percipience of Kerry people, said, “Leave them. It won’t rain tomorrow either.

Although I was unfamiliar with percipience, it has many easier-to-understand synonyms. They include: appreciationapprehension, comprehension, perception and understanding.

The root of the word is Latin, from percipientem, present participle of percipere, which means to perceive.  It was used earlier in English (in the 1660s) meaning, “one who perceives.”

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