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Perspicacity vs Shrewd - What's the difference?

perspicacity | shrewd |

As a noun perspicacity

is acute discernment or understanding; insight.

As an adjective shrewd is

showing clever resourcefulness in practical matters.




  • Acute discernment or understanding; insight.
  • * 1904 , (Jack London), The Sea-Wolf , ch. 8:
  • "I understand," I said. "The fact is that you have the money." His face brightened. He seemed pleased at my perspicacity .
  • The human faculty or power to mentally grasp or understand clearly.
  • * 1856 , "Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey," The Quarterly Review , vol. 98, p. 458:
  • His very veneration for his father-in-law, combined as it is with a total want of the most ordinary perspicacity , is an additional disqualification.
  • * 1888 , "Review of La suggestion mentale'' by H. Bourru and P. Burot," ''The American Journal of Psychology , vol. 1 no. 3, p. 503:
  • As the former consists in the transmission of psychic states inappreciable to the normal perspicacity or senses, the transfer cannot pass through the medium of intelligence.
  • (obsolete) Keen eyesight.
  • * 1833 , John Harrison Curtis, A Treatise on the Physiology and Diseases of the Eye , London, Longman, p. 138:
  • Attentive consideration of the phenomena of vision has led to the invention of artificial aids by which the sight may be wonderfully strengthened and preserved, and man endowed at once with the perspicacity of the eagle or the minute scrutiny of the insect.


    * * * * "perspicacity" in Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary (Cambridge University Press, 2007) * Oxford English Dictionary , second edition (1989) * Random House Webster's Unabridged Electronic Dictionary (1987-1996)




  • showing clever resourcefulness in practical matters
  • artful, tricky or cunning
  • streetwise
  • *
  • knowledgeable
  • * {{quote-news
  • , year=2011 , date=November 10 , author=Jeremy Wilson , title=tEngland Under 21 5 Iceland Under 21 0: match report , work=Telegraph citation , page= , passage=The most persistent tormentor was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who scored a hat-trick in last month’s corresponding fixture in Iceland. His ability to run at defences is instantly striking, but it is his clever use of possession that has persuaded some shrewd judges that he is an even better prospect than Theo Walcott. }}
  • (archaic) Scolding, satirical, sharp.
  • * 1599 ,
  • LEONATO. By my troth, niece, thou wilt never get thee a husband, if thou be so shrewd of thy tongue.

    Derived terms

    * shrewdly * shrewdness