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Five Wits


(1) Common sense, (2) imagination, (3) fantasy, (4) estimation, and (5) memory. Common sense is the outcome of the five senses; imagination is the “wit” of the mind; fantasy is imagination united with judgment; estimation estimates the absolute, such as time, space, locality, and so on; and memory is the “wit” of recalling past events. (See Seven Wits.)

“Four of his five wits went halting off.”

Shakespeare: Much Ado, etc., i. 1.

“These are the five witts removyng inwardly:

First, ‘Common witte,ʹ and then ‘Ymagination,ʹ

‘Fantasy,ʹ and ‘Estimationʹ truely,

And ‘Memory.ʹ”

Stephen Hawes: The Passe-tyme of Plesure (1315).

⁂ Notwithstanding this quotation, probably the Five Wits mean the wits of the five senses.

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Entry taken from Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. and revised in 1895.

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