clairvoyant

[ klair-voi-uh nt ]
/ klɛərˈvɔɪ ənt /

adjective

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.

noun

a clairvoyant person: A clever clairvoyant could make a fortune in the stock market.

Origin of clairvoyant

1665–75; < French, equivalent to clair clear + voyant seeing (present participle of voir to see < Latin vidēre; see -ant)

Related forms

clair·voy·ant·ly, adverb

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)

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.

Popular references


The Clairvoyant: A 1934 film starring Claude Rains and Fay Wray.
The Clairvoyant Journals: A conceptual art piece (1978) by poet Hannah Weiner. It was written in the form of a diary with 3 concurrent and contrasting voices narrating, and was performed live.
—“The Clairvoyant”: A 1988 song by the band Iron Maiden, purportedly inspired by the death of British psychic Doris Stokes.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for clairvoyant

British Dictionary definitions for clairvoyant

clairvoyant

/ (klɛəˈvɔɪənt) /

adjective

of, possessing, or relating to clairvoyance
having great insight or second sight

noun

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