Meaning of WIT in English


I. ˈwit, usu -id.+V verb

( past wist ˈwist ; past part wist present part witting present first & third singular wot ˈwät, usu -äd.+V)

Etymology: Middle English witen (1st & 3d singular present wot, wat, present plural witen, past wiste, past participle witen, wist ), from Old English witan (1st & 3d singular present wāt, present plural witon, past wiste, wisse, past participle witen ); akin to Old High German wizzan to know (1st & 3d singular present weiz, past westa, wessa, past participle giwizzan ), Old Norse vita (1st & 3d singular present veit, past vissa, past participle vitathr ), Gothic witan to know (1st singular present wait, past wissa ), Latin vidēre to see, Greek eidenai to know, oida I know, idein to see, Sanskrit veda I know, he knows, vidyā knowledge; basic meaning: to see

transitive verb


a. archaic : to be aware of : know

little witting that so soon shadows would close in upon them — J.M.Barrie

— used in imperative to convey positive assurance

please you wit : the epitaph is … writ — Shakespeare

b. chiefly Midland : think , suppose

they are too bold and crafty, I wit — Horace Kephart

2. obsolete : to find out : discover , learn

stood afar off, to wit what would be done to him — Exod 2:4 (Authorized Version)

intransitive verb

1. archaic : to be aware : know

we wit well of many things that we would never prove — Adeline Whitney

2. archaic : to become informed

II. noun

( -s )

Etymology: Middle English, from Old English; akin to Old High German wizzi knowledge, understanding, wit, Old Norse vit, Gothic -witi knowledge, Old English witan to know — more at wit I


a. : mind , memory

cannot put himself inside the wit of the slow Neanderthal — Emma Hawkridge

b. : reasoning power : intelligence

the moron who hasn't the wit to hold a job — F.L.Allen

c. obsolete : mechanical skill : inventiveness

the enemy was oftener overcome … by the architect's wit — James Leoni


a. : sense 2a — often used in plural

thou hast more of the wild goose in one of thy wits, than I am sure I have in my whole five — Shakespeare


(1) : mental soundness : sanity

you have lost your wit , or you would never say such a thing — Humayun Kabir

— often used in plural

scared me out of my wits — A.J.Russell

(2) : mental capability : pragmatic resourcefulness : ingenuity

has enough shrewd wit to handle any situation — John Erskine †1951

— often used in plural

wrested submission from nature by their determination and wits — John DeMeyer

was at her wits' end — Edith Sitwell


a. : astuteness of perception or judgment : acumen , wisdom

the wit that gives sharp decisions on matters of high policy — Constance Foley

if love is a thorn, they show no wit who foolishly hug and foster it — W.S.Gilbert

b. : creative imagination : intellectual brilliance or subtlety

skill in improvising fugues is a matter of wit and inclination rather than an exhibition of facility in execution — A.E.Wier

poems … where an atmosphere of wit and elegance assures poignancy of meaning — R.P.Blackmur

specifically : the ability to discover amusing analogies between apparently unrelated things and to express them cleverly

follow the metaphysical school of writers of wit — Stephen Spender


(1) : a talent for banter or persiflage

(2) : repartee , satire

brevity is the soul of wit

wit has been made a weapon of political dispute — G.F.Sensabaugh


a. : a man of superior intellectual attainments : thinker , brain

nimble and versatile Athenian wits trained to preternatural acuteness by the debates of the law courts and the Assembly — G.L.Dickinson

b. : an imaginatively perceptive and articulate individual especially skilled in banter or persiflage


humor , irony , sarcasm , satire , repartee : wit implies intellectual brilliance and quickness in perception combined with a gift for expressing ideas in an entertaining, often laughter provoking, pointed way, usually connoting the unexpected or apt turn of phrase or idea and often suggesting a certain brittle unfeelingness

portrayed feminine character with an extraordinary wit and insight — John Erskine †1951

a speech as full of wit and brilliance as any he had ever made — Stewart Cockburn

had a playful wit which was sometimes very biting — Gertrude Stein

humor in this comparison can signify a disposition to see the ludicrous, comical, ridiculous, or absurd or to give it expression or can apply to the expression itself, often suggesting a generalness or a greater kindliness or sympathy with human failings than does wit

a man of great humor, full of jokes and laughter

was always saved by her crisp sense of humor, her shrewd and mischievous wit — Havelock Ellis

parliamentary humor is not remarkable for its subtlety. It is broad rather than deep. It is humor, not wit — E.H.Collis

the modern sense of humor is the quiet enjoyment and implicit expression of the fun of things — Louis Cazamian

a humor that grows from a deep understanding of human foibles and fortitudes, a humor of compassionate knowledge as well as of situation — Katherine G. Jackson

irony applies chiefly to a way of speaking or writing in which the meaning intended is contrary to that expressed on the surface

beset with confusion and humiliation he said in blunt irony, “I am certainly enjoying myself”

but in a more literary or dramatic sense it implies a deeper perception of the discrepancies implicit in life and character or applies to the actual discrepancies (as between appearance and reality, what is promised and what fulfilled, what is intended and what achieved, what seemingly should be and what actually is), applying frequently to a situation in which what results is the direct, often tragic, opposite of what was desired, intended, or worked for

the dramatic irony of the play in which the hero intent upon the greatest good he knows achieves by his very pursuit of it destruction and death

the patient had sought violent death, but, with the usual irony of life, it was the doctor whom sudden death overcame — Havelock Ellis

the irony of Fielding's life that at the moment of his success he lost his happiness — Time

an irony of nature that our teeth, which decay so painfully while we live, stop decaying at our death, and outlast all the rest of us — Leonard Woolley

sarcasm applies chiefly to a type of humor intended to cut or wound, often employing ridicule or bitter irony

the satire has become in some instances sarcasm — and heavy sarcasm at that — John Woodburn

satire can apply to any criticism or censure relying on exposure, often by irony and often subtle, of the ridiculous or absurd qualities of something

Jonson's drama is only incidentally satire, because it is only incidentally a criticism upon the actual world — T.S.Eliot

satire, which holds up to ridicule conduct, beliefs, or institutions disapproved of by the author, may be seriously corrective in purpose, and in such case is intermediate between pure comedy and social drama — K.T.Rowe

one whose conversation dealt a good deal in satire and jokes at someone else's expense

repartee , sometimes still applied to a witty or clever retort, applies chiefly to the power or the art of replying quickly and with wit, humor, or, infrequently, sarcasm

half a dozen smart repartees were possible — Aldous Huxley

she has a clever, coherent way of making her points, and is concise in reply if questioned, quick at repartee if heckled — Rose Macaulay

Synonym: see in addition mind .

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.