There are 2 main definitions of wit in English:

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wit 1

Pronunciation: /wit/


1Mental sharpness and inventiveness; keen intelligence: he does not lack perception or native wit
More example sentences
  • Too many maxims make for too simple a path, bounded on each side by the wit and mental agility of someone else's moment.
  • As anyone who has had anything to say about Reyner Banham will agree, it is impossible not to fall under the spell of the wit and the intelligence of the writing.
  • He, once again, directed more focus to the appearance of the guys and ignored the wit and intelligence with which the songs were written and performed.
1.1 (wits) The intelligence required for normal activity; basic human intelligence: he needed all his wits to figure out the way back
2A natural aptitude for using words and ideas in a quick and inventive way to create humor: a player with a sharp tongue and a quick wit
More example sentences
  • His acid wit and quick humour have made him a television star, but this summer Clive Anderson will return to his roots when he appears at the Edinburgh Fringe venue which helped launch his career.
  • Popular presenter Sue Sweeney brings her quick wit and comic humour to a new show on Saturdays starting at 9.00 am following the success of her Tuesday evening programme.
  • But equal to this was his quick wit and indomitable humour.
2.1A person who has an aptitude for using words and ideas in a quick and inventive way: she is such a wit
More example sentences
  • Hanahoe is a great wit and began the banter that day when congratulating Kerry on their 5-11 to 0-9 win.
  • As a feminist wit quipped in this regard, ‘Ginger did everything Fred did except backwards and in high heels!’
  • The wits who complained that it would clash with the home side's tangerine shirts had forgotten that the previous one came in the colours of Ayr.



be at one's wits' end

Be overwhelmed with difficulties and at a loss as to what to do next.
Example sentences
  • They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their calamity; they reeled and staggered like drunkards, and were at their wits' end.
  • Irate motorists were at their wits' end in Carlow on the bank holiday Friday when the local UDC decided to shut down one of the main connecting roads in the town.
  • Bangalore was the fastest developing city in the East and civic agencies here were at their wits' end to cater to the growing population, the minister said.

be frightened (or scared) out of one's wits

Be extremely frightened; be immobilized by fear.
Example sentences
  • He said: ‘Pensioners round here were frightened out of their wits.’
  • The workers were frightened out of their wits, they knew that this meant death to whoever had dared to disturb the tomb.
  • ‘When we played at the Park the band before us were really good I was scared out of my wits and was dreading going on,’ added Craig.

gather (or collect) one's wits

Allow oneself to think calmly and clearly in a demanding situation.
Example sentences
  • Shaken up herself, Phoebe decided to make an opportune exit, allowing herself as well as Jess to gather their wits about them once again.
  • After gathering her wits, she ran outside, in search of her two boys.
  • At last, gathering her wits about her, Daphne waddled back to her master to tell him what had happened at the river's edge.

have (or keep) one's wits about one

Be constantly alert and vigilant.
Example sentences
  • The only thing I can do is keep my wits about me and stay alert, you know?
  • He added: ‘I suppose it was fortunate that I kept my wits about me.’
  • I panicked and, although it would be ridiculous to die of exposure in Norfolk, I could have done if I had not kept my wits about me.

live by one's wits

Earn money by clever and sometimes dishonest means, having no regular employment.
Example sentences
  • They didn't kill anyone and lived by their wits.
  • As an impecunious artist myself, I have indeed had to learn to live by my wits, and by whatever sparse and sporadic income I can glean from my paintings.
  • Like a kid who has to live by his wits, but might get jumped any minute for being too smart for his own good, he knows the only strategy that's really going to save him in the end is authenticity and wisdom.

pit one's wits against

Compete with (someone or something).
Example sentences
  • Bringing his girlfriend Tania MacHale with him for luck, he pitted his wits against more than 2,500 competitors including the world's best professional players over five days.
  • The episodes are enlivened by courtroom scenes where Tenali pits his wits against that of his adversaries and comes up trumps every time, much to the secret delight of the ruler.
  • He has taken the odd piece of advice from Middlesbrough boss McClaren, whom he pits his wits against today.



[in combination]: slow-witted


Old English wit(t), gewit(t), denoting the mind as the seat of consciousness, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch weet and German Witz, also to wit2.

Words that rhyme with wit

acquit, admit, backlit, bedsit, befit, bit, Brit, Britt, chit, commit, demit, dit, emit, fit, flit, frit, git, grit, hit, intermit, it, kit, knit, legit, lickety-split, lit, manumit, mishit, mitt, nit, omit, outsit, outwit, permit, pit, Pitt, pretermit, quit, remit, retrofit, sit, skit, slit, snit, spit, split, sprit, squit, submit, transmit, twit, whit, writ, zit
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There are 2 main definitions of wit in English:

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wit 2

Pronunciation: /wit/

verb (wot /wät/, witting; past and past participle wist /wist/)

[no object]
1 archaic Have knowledge: I addressed a few words to the lady you wot of [with object]: I wot that but too well
More example sentences
  • With the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him.
  • And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy, neither wist they what to answer Him.
  • And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was.
2 (to wit) That is to say (used to make clearer or more specific something already said or referred to): the textbooks show an irritating parochialism, to wit an almost total exclusion of papers not in English
More example sentences
  • Given that the map on the right clearly says ‘Baghdad’ in the middle, I assume you're using that staple of British wit, to wit, ‘irony.’
  • I haven't time to answer him now, but I was interested in something one of his commenters said: to wit, that Social Security was put in place to replace the retirement savings of people who were wiped out in the 1929 crash.
  • The incursion of sectarian orthodoxy in Indian history involves two distinct problems, to wit, narrow sectarianism, and unreasoned orthodoxy.


Old English witan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch weten and German wissen, from an Indo-European root shared by Sanskrit veda 'knowledge' and Latin videre 'see'.

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