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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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A Word A Day — worldly-wise

Good morning, Netizens...


October 18, 2012

Word of the Day


  • worldly-wise

  • audio pronunciation

  • \WERLD-wee-wyze\




: possessing a practical and often shrewd understanding of human affairs



The interns' supervisor addressed the group, saying "We don't expect our interns to be worldly-wise—we expect them to be conscientious, hardworking, and committed to learning how work in a small non-profit is done."

"His supposed ruthlessness is the perfect antidote to that greatest of sins for the worldly-wise—naïveté." — From Miles J. Unger's 2011 book Machiavelli: A Biography



"Worldly-wise" is one of a handful of compound adjectives formed from the word "wise" ("having wisdom or knowledge"). "Penny-wise" (from the phrase "penny-wise and pound-foolish") is a good word for describing someone who is good with only small sums or matters. "Weather-wise" can describe a competent meteorologist or someone who is competent in a different kind of forecasting: that of changes in opinion or feeling. These adjectives aren't especially common, but they do see occasional use. Even less common is "air-wise," which can be applied to people skilled in aviation. And if you master these words and feel the wiser for it, you may consider yourself "self-wise"—that is, wise in your own estimation.

From Merriam-Webster Online at

Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.