Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Savant

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is savant. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Savant is a formal word that refers to a learned person, especially someone with detailed knowledge about a particular subject. The word is also used to refer to a person affected with a developmental disorder who exhibits exceptional skill or brilliance in a particular subject or field.

// His sister is a computer savant, so he knows he can call her whenever he has technical issues.

SAVANT in Context

“Ever since he was a child growing up in Melbourne, Florida, [Rivian Automotive CEO, Robert Joseph] Scaringe wanted to start his own car company. He had developed a reputation as an automotive savant and tinkered on cars in his spare time, even keeping parts in his bedroom.” — Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNN Business, 22 Nov. 2022

Did You Know?

Word-loving Homo sapiens will appreciate how much there is to know about savant. For one, savant comes ultimately from the Latin word sapere (“to be wise”) by way of Middle French, where savant is the present participle of savoir, meaning “to know.” Second, savant shares roots with the English words sapient (“possessing great wisdom”) and sage (“very wise”) (as well as Homo sapiens). Finally, the term is sometimes used to refer to a person who demonstrates extraordinary knowledge in a particular subject or has an extraordinary ability to perform a particular task (such as complex mathematics) but has more limited capacities in other areas.

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