- the keen perception and cleverly apt expression of those connections between ideas that awaken amusement and pleasure.
- speech or writing showing such perception and expression.
- a person having or noted for such perception and expression.
- understanding, intelligence, or sagacity; astuteness.
- Usually wits.
- powers of intelligent observation, keen perception, ingenious contrivance, or the like; mental acuity, composure, and resourcefulness: using one's wits to get ahead.
- mental faculties; senses: to lose one's wits; frightened out of one's wits.
- at one's wit's end. at the end of one's ideas or mental resources; perplexed: My two-year-old won't eat anything but pizza, and I'm at my wit's end.
- keep/have one's wits about one, to remain alert and observant; be prepared for or equal to anything: to keep your wits about you in a crisis.
- live by one's wits, to provide for oneself by employing ingenuity or cunning; live precariously: We traveled around the world, living by our wits.
Origin of wit1
Examples from the Web for wits
And when rappers battle one another with their wits and words, it is similar to the bam-pow!Bam! Pow! Bling! Hip-Hop's History Gets the Graphic Novel Treatment
August 25, 2014
She is routinely dismissed by Madrid wits as “a Danish tart.”Will Scandal Sink the Spanish Royal Family?
August 18, 2014
But rather than scare people out of their wits, they served as a moment of much-needed comic relief for many.Israel, Hamas, WhatsApp and Hacked Phones in the Gaza Psy-War
July 26, 2014
As a result, Tallulah found herself hailed as one of the wits of Manhattan, and she worked hard to make sure the reputation stuck.Tallulah Bankhead: Gay, Drunk and Liberated in an Era of Excess Art
January 25, 2014
On the same day, Wits University in Johannesburg held a memorial in its iconic Great Hall.Goodbye, Madiba
December 15, 2013
She simply lived by her wits, and perhaps by some want of that article in her male friends.Malbone
Thomas Wentworth Higginson
They were bright; there is hardly a street boy living by his wits who isn't.Ester Ried Yet Speaking
She went a little pale over her mistakes, but preserved her dignity and her wits.K
Mary Roberts Rinehart
That he had needed a stimulant that day was because he had been soured and would not try with his wits about him.Thoroughbreds
W. A. Fraser
But I isn't got all my wits,' says he, the cry-baby; 'an' God knows I'm doin' my best!'Quaint Courtships
- (sometimes singular) the ability to reason and act, esp quickly (esp in the phrase have one's wits about one)
- (sometimes singular) right mind, sanity (esp in the phrase out of one's wits)
- at one's wits' end at a loss to know how to proceed
- five wits obsolete the five senses or mental faculties
- live by one's wits to gain a livelihood by craftiness and cunning rather than by hard work
- Southern African informal University of the Witwatersrand
- the talent or quality of using unexpected associations between contrasting or disparate words or ideas to make a clever humorous effect
- speech or writing showing this quality
- a person possessing, showing, or noted for such an ability, esp in repartee
- practical intelligence (esp in the phrase have the wit to)
- Scot and Northern English dialect information or knowledge (esp in the phrase get wit of)
- archaic mental capacity or a person possessing it
- obsolete the mind or memory
- archaic to be or become aware of (something)
- to wit that is to say; namely (used to introduce statements, as in legal documents)
Word Origin and History for wits
"mental capacity," Old English wit, more commonly gewit, from Proto-Germanic *witjan (cf. Old Saxon wit, Old Norse vit, Danish vid, Swedish vett, Old Frisian wit, Old High German wizzi "knowledge, understanding, intelligence, mind," German Witz "wit, witticism, joke," Gothic unwiti "ignorance"), from PIE *woid-/*weid-/*wid- "to see," metaphorically "to know" (see vision). Related to Old English witan "to know" (source of wit (v.)). Meaning "ability to make clever remarks in an amusing way" is first recorded 1540s; that of "person of wit or learning" is from late 15c. For nuances of usage, see humor.
A witty saying proves nothing. [Voltaire, Diner du Comte de Boulainvilliers]
Wit ought to be five or six degrees above the ideas that form the intelligence of an audience. [Stendhal, "Life of Henry Brulard"]
"know," Old English witan "to know," from Proto-Germanic *witanan "to have seen," hence "to know" (cf. Old Saxon witan, Old Norse vita, Old Frisian wita, Middle Dutch, Dutch weten, Old High German wizzan, German wissen, Gothic witan "to know"); see wit (n.). The phrase to wit, almost the only surviving use of the verb, is first recorded 1570s, from earlier that is to wit (mid-14c.), probably a loan-translation of Anglo-French cestasavoir, used to render Latin videlicet (see viz.).
Idioms and Phrases with wits
see at one's wit's end; have one's wits about one; live by one's wits; scare out of one's wits; to wit.