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  1. the quality or fact of being prudent, or wise in practical affairs, as by providing for the future.
  2. caution with regard to practical matters; discretion.
  3. regard for one's own interests.
  4. provident care in the management of resources; economy; frugality.
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Origin of prudence

1300–50; Middle English < Middle French < Latin prūdentia. See prudent, -ence
Related formsnon·pru·dence, noun


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1. Prudence, calculation, foresight, forethought imply attempted provision against possible contingencies. Prudence is care, caution, and good judgment, as well as wisdom in looking ahead: sober prudence in handling one's affairs. Calculation suggests a disposition to get a large return for as small an outlay as possible and willingness to benefit at the expense of others: cold calculation. Foresight implies a prudent looking ahead rather far into the future: clear foresight in planning. Forethought emphasizes the adequacy of preparation for the future: Careful forethought helped him deal with the emergency.



  1. a female given name.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for prudence


  1. caution in practical affairs; discretion or circumspection
  2. care taken in the management of one's resources
  3. consideration for one's own interests
  4. the condition or quality of being prudent
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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

Word Origin and History for prudence


mid-14c. (c.1200 as a surname), mid-14c., "intelligence; discretion, foresight; wisdom to see what is suitable or profitable;" also one of the four cardinal virtues, "wisdom to see what is virtuous;" from Old French prudence (13c.) and directly from Latin prudentia "a foreseeing, foresight, sagacity, practical judgment," contraction of providentia "foresight" (see providence). Secondary sense of "wisdom" (late 14c.) is preserved in jurisprudence.

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fem. proper name; see prudence.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper