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the five wits
From 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 Wit, v.] [1913 Webster] 1. Mind; intellect; understanding; sense. [1913 Webster] Who knew the wit of the Lord? or who was his counselor? --Wyclif (Rom. xi. 34). [1913 Webster] A prince most prudent, of an excellent And unmatched wit and judgment. --Shak. [1913 Webster] Will puts in practice what wit deviseth. --Sir J. Davies. [1913 Webster] He wants not wit the dander to decline. --Dryden. [1913 Webster] 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. [1913 Webster] I will stare him out of his wits. --Shak. [1913 Webster] 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. [1913 Webster] 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. --Dryden. [1913 Webster] Wit which discovers partial likeness hidden in general diversity. --Coleridge. [1913 Webster] 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. --Locke. [1913 Webster] 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. [1913 Webster] 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. [1913 Webster] Intemperate wits will spare neither friend nor foe. --L'Estrange. [1913 Webster] A wit herself, Amelia weds a wit. --Young. [1913 Webster] The five wits, the five senses; also, sometimes, the five qualities or faculties, common wit, imagination, fantasy, estimation, and memory. --Chaucer. Nares. [1913 Webster] But my five wits nor my five senses can Dissuade one foolish heart from serving thee. --Shak. [1913 Webster] 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 language. [1913 Webster]