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Shrewd

I use “shrewd” to mean smart but in a negative, cunning way. One native English speaker told me that this is wrong. According to her “shrewd” is just as positive as “smart”. But another native English speaker told me that I am right. What is your impression of the word “shrewd”?

  • June 5, 2003
  • Posted by Dyske
  • Filed in Usage
  • 1 comment

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The word shrew does carry a negative connotation that originated in Olde and Middle English. In Middle English, the world "schrewed" meant to curse. The original definition is evil, bad, wicked, mischievous, schrewish (?). In contemporary English, schrewd implies a keenness of mind, sharp insight, and a cleverness in practical matters which in my mind molds a mental image of a cleverly cunningly conniving kind of person.

For anyone who cares to read on, here are a few synonyms that might find more use in certain circumstances~

Sagacious - implies keen discernment and farsighted judgment, as in a sagacious counselor

Perspicacious - suggests the penetrating mental vision or dscernment that enables one clearly to see and understand what is obscure, hidden, as in someone with a perspicacious judge of character

Astute - implies shrewness combined with sagacity and sometimes connotes, in addition, artfulness or cunning, as in an astupid... er i mean astute politician

jikhwang June 28, 2003 @ 9:35PM

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