One morning not long ago I was watching the news on television when all of a sudden—I don’t know why—I wondered whether English had ever used the adjective scient. If the noun convenience corresponds to the adjective convenient, and reliance to reliant, why not science to scient? When I did a search at the dictionary site I found that English had indeed once accepted scient as an adjective meaning ‘knowing, skillful.’ The word was formed from Latin scient-, the stem of the present participle of the verb scīre that meant ‘to know.’ From scient- also came the abstract Latin noun scientia, whose meanings were ‘a knowing or being skilled in any thing; knowledge; skill, expertness,’ and ultimately ‘science,’ which Spanish has respelled ciencia. Science as we know it today didn’t exist in ancient times, so modern European languages had to create a new corresponding adjective. For Spanish and English that took the respective forms científico and scientific, with the Spanish adjective doubling as a noun corresponding to English scientist.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jim R
    Apr 26, 2017 @ 07:42:08

    So, long ago, there were scients who knew a lot about something. Learned elders, etc. Much later, the process of learning came about we now know as science.

    Do I have that right?


  2. shoreacres
    Apr 26, 2017 @ 07:57:15

    It seems to me that prescient could be included, too. When I went over to the OED to check it out, I eventually landed on the page for science, which contains much of the information you’ve provided here.

    In their examples, I also found this great quotation from John Ruskin: “In science you must not talk before you know. In art you must not talk before you do. In literature you must not talk before you think. [“The Eagle’s Nest,” 1872] I laughed at that. In 2008, I offered “More thinking, fewer words” as a guide for bloggers. I may have to think about a repost of that one.


  3. Playamart - Zeebra Designs
    Apr 26, 2017 @ 09:59:49

    it’s interesting how things just pop into our minds.. very great ‘prompt’ for you, and a great lesson in scient for us!


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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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