About This Word

savvy?

[sav-ee]

What does savvy? mean?

It's pillagin' time, savvy?

The interrogative savvy?, popularized by Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, is just a barnacle-y way to say "Got it?"

Related words:

  • ahoy, matey
  • aight?
  • call of booty
  • know what I'm sayin'?
  • ya feel me?

See how it's used

savvy?

giphy

Where does savvy? come from?

As with so many English words, savvy comes from Latin. Its verb sapere means "to be wise or knowing" (think homo sapiens), which yielded savez-vous ("do you know?") in French and sabe in Spanish ("you know"), said to become savvy in West Indies pidgin language.

Though we may think of savvy? as pirate slang, we can thank the 1780s for savvy, a full half a century after the Golden Age of Piracy. Back then when English borrowed it, savvy was simply a noun that meant "knowledge" or "wisdom," especially in the sense of practical (vs. theoretical) knowledge. We still use savvy as a noun in this way today:

We get savvy as an adjective by the early 1800s. This is the use we're more familiar with today, especially in phrases such as politically savvy or a savvy dresser. In these cases, savvy means more than just knowledgeable—it also means "crafty," "quick," "sharp." Takes real skill and street smarts to be savvy.

Though we still often use savvy in these general ways, our association of savvy with pirates comes from the summer 2003 debut of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. In the film, main character Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) uses the question Savvy? to punctuate threats, jokes, and other swashbuckling statements. This savvy calls back to its roots for "do you understand?" with the sharp bark of a "Do you hear what I'm saying?"

fanpop.com

Fans of the franchise instantly took to the phrase, and the first Urban Dictionary entries for the term, written in quick succession in summer 2003, all reference the film as their inspiration. Not bad for what was apparently an ad lib from Depp.

Who uses savvy??

Outside of general uses of the word savvy in speech and writing, it's rare to see a picture of a Captain Jack Sparrow Halloween costume or cosplay without savvy? somewhere in the caption.

Social-media users often use savvy? in the same way as Captain Jack Sparrow: to punctuate their more forceful opinions—even the non-pirate-related ones.

And, we're sure that Savannah "Savvy" Shields, the 2017 winner of the Miss America contest, occasionally gets asked Savvy?

For example

Re: Harper Lee and Go Set a Watchman -- never publish my unfinished drafts. If you do this after I die, I will absolutely haunt you. Savvy?

@alwayscoffee, July, 2015

NBA, MLB, NFL take lead on innovation to improve interest, performance. The NBA is generally regarded as the most tech savvy major pro sports league, but others may be closing the gap.

Investors Digest, June, 2018

JOHNNY DEPP: I’m $40M in debt CAPTAIN JACK SPARROW: sounds like ur not very financially JOHNNY DEPP: don’t CAPTAIN JACK SPARROW: savvy

@KalvinMacleod, April, 2017

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