The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Wit \Wit\, n. [AS. witt, wit; akin to OFries. wit, G. witz, OHG.
wizz[imac], Icel. vit, Dan. vid, Sw. vett. [root]133. See
1. Mind; intellect; understanding; sense.
Who knew the wit of the Lord? or who was his
counselor? --Wyclif (Rom.
A prince most prudent, of an excellent
And unmatched wit and judgment. --Shak.
Will puts in practice what wit deviseth. --Sir J.
He wants not wit the dander to decline. --Dryden.
2. A mental faculty, or power of the mind; -- used in this
sense chiefly in the plural, and in certain phrases; as,
to lose one's wits; at one's wits' end, and the like.
"Men's wittes ben so dull." --Chaucer.
I will stare him out of his wits. --Shak.
3. Felicitous association of objects not usually connected,
so as to produce a pleasant surprise; also. the power of
readily combining objects in such a manner.
The definition of wit is only this, that it is a
propriety of thoughts and words; or, in other terms,
thoughts and words elegantly adapted to the subject.
Wit which discovers partial likeness hidden in
general diversity. --Coleridge.
Wit lying most in the assemblage of ideas, and
putting those together with quickness and variety
wherein can be found any resemblance or congruity,
thereby to make up pleasant pictures in the fancy.
4. A person of eminent sense or knowledge; a man of genius,
fancy, or humor; one distinguished for bright or amusing
sayings, for repartee, and the like.
In Athens, where books and wits were ever busier
than in any other part of Greece, I find but only
two sorts of writings which the magistrate cared to
take notice of; those either blasphemous and
atheistical, or libelous. --Milton.
Intemperate wits will spare neither friend nor foe.
A wit herself, Amelia weds a wit. --Young.
The five wits, the five senses; also, sometimes, the five
qualities or faculties, common wit, imagination, fantasy,
estimation, and memory. --Chaucer. Nares.
But my five wits nor my five senses can
Dissuade one foolish heart from serving thee.
Syn: Ingenuity; humor; satire; sarcasm; irony; burlesque.
Usage: Wit, Humor. Wit primarily meant mind; and now
denotes the power of seizing on some thought or
occurrence, and, by a sudden turn, presenting it under
aspects wholly new and unexpected -- apparently
natural and admissible, if not perfectly just, and
bearing on the subject, or the parties concerned, with
a laughable keenness and force. "What I want," said a
pompous orator, aiming at his antagonist, "is common
sense." "Exactly!" was the whispered reply. The
pleasure we find in wit arises from the ingenuity of
the turn, the sudden surprise it brings, and the
patness of its application to the case, in the new and
ludicrous relations thus flashed upon the view. Humor
is a quality more congenial to the English mind than
wit. It consists primarily in taking up the
peculiarities of a humorist (or eccentric person) and
drawing them out, as Addison did those of Sir Roger de
Coverley, so that we enjoy a hearty, good-natured
laugh at his unconscious manifestation of whims and
oddities. From this original sense the term has been
widened to embrace other sources of kindly mirth of
the same general character. In a well-known caricature
of English reserve, an Oxford student is represented
as standing on the brink of a river, greatly agitated
at the sight of a drowning man before him, and crying
out, "O that I had been introduced to this gentleman,
that I might save his life!" The "Silent Woman" of Ben
Jonson is one of the most humorous productions, in the
original sense of the term, which we have in our