What does ‘perspicacity’ mean?

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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: perspicacity….

I’ve heard the word perspicacity since I was a child. I’ve probably even used it. But I could no longer remember what it meant when I encountered it in the superb political novel, The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis (pictured above).

The story of a former Soviet Israeli politician who re-encounters the man who betrayed him to the K.G.B. decades before, the book is a poetically-written page-turner. Here is how Bezmozgis used the noun perspicacity:

That’s that Svetlana had no inkling of — that she behaved as though enraptured by her own perspicacity and brilliance astounded him.

The word means “shrewdness” — the quality of having a ready insight into things. It dates back to the 1540s, from Middle French perspicacité which, in turn, came from the Late Latin perspicacitas meaning “sharp-sightedness, discernment,” from the Latin perspicax meaning “sharp-sighted, having the power of seeing through.” It is of course related to the word perspective.