Also found in: Thesaurus, Legal.
These adjectives mean having or showing keen awareness, sound judgment, and often resourcefulness, especially in practical matters. Shrewd suggests a sharp intelligence, hardheadedness, and often an intuitive grasp of practical considerations: "He was too shrewd to go along with them upon a road which could lead only to their overthrow" (J.A. Froude).
Sagacious connotes prudence, discernment, and farsightedness: "He was observant and thoughtful, and given to asking sagacious questions" (John Galt).
Astute suggests shrewdness, especially with regard to one's own interests: An astute tenant always reads the small print in a lease.
Perspicacious implies penetration and clear-sightedness: She is much too perspicacious to be taken in by such a spurious argument.
Shrewdnessof apes: company of apes, 1452; shrewdness was defined in 1567 as naughtiness or mischievousness.
know what’s o’clock To be cognizant of the true state of affairs, to know what’s up; to be on the ball.
Our governor’s wide awake … He knows what’s o’clock. (Dickens, Sketches by Boz, 1836)
This expression is rarely heard in the United States, where the analogous negative is a familiar expression of ignorance: “He doesn’t even know what time it is.”
know which way the wind blows To be shrewdly aware of the true state of affairs; to have an intuitive sense of what will probably happen. The origin of this expression may have been nautical. One must know which way the wind blows in order to navigate a vessel. Variants of this expression appeared in print as early as the 15th century. Today it is used figuratively to indicate a commonsensical awareness of outside influences at work.
Philadelphia lawyer A shrewd, sharp lawyer well-acquainted with the intricacies and subtleties of the law; a very clever lawyer who uses his knowledge of legal technicalities and fine points to his advantage; a shyster. The reference is apparently to Alexander Hamilton, a former attorney general in Philadelphia. In a case of criminal libel in 1735, he obtained an acquittal for John Peter Zenger, the publisher of the New York Weekly Journal, in the face of what seemed to be irrefutable evidence. The decision established the principle of freedom of the press in America. Use of the term dates from the late 18th century.
The new violation ticket will be in quadruplicate, and traffic officials say it takes a “Philadelphia lawyer” to fix it. (The Daily Times [Chicago], November, 1947)
sly-boots A cunning, sly, or wily person, especially one who gives the impression of being slow-witted. In this expression, boots probably refers to a servant, stereotypically a dullard, who polishes boots and shoes. Thus, a slyboots is one who appears to be a dolt but who is actually shrewd and alert.
That sly-boots was cursedly cunning to hide ’em. (Oliver Goldsmith, Retaliation, A Poem, 1774)
A variation is sly as old boots.
smart as a whip Extremely bright, alert, witty, or clever; very intelligent; sharp or keen. This commonly used expression may have originated as a humorous twist on smart ‘sharp pain,’ such as that caused by a whip.
[He] was a prompt and successful business man, “smart as a whip,” as the Yankees say. (Mountaineer [Salt Lake City, Utah], March 24, 1860)
too far north Too clever or shrewd, smart or knowing, extremely canny.
It shan’t avail you, you shall find me too far north for you. (Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Roderick Random, 1748)
This British slang expression is an allusion to the reputed shrewdness of the inhabitants of northern counties such as Yorkshire and Aberdeen.
|Noun||1.||shrewdness - intelligence manifested by being astute (as in business dealings)|
business enterprise, commercial enterprise, business - the activity of providing goods and services involving financial and commercial and industrial aspects; "computers are now widely used in business"
intelligence - the ability to comprehend; to understand and profit from experience
craftiness, cunning, foxiness, guile, slyness, wiliness, craft - shrewdness as demonstrated by being skilled in deception
knowingness - shrewdness demonstrated by knowledge
street smarts - a shrewd ability to survive in a dangerous urban environment