Wisdom: Definition, Synonyms, and Meaning | BetterHelp (2023)

Interested In Deeping Your Understanding Of Wisdom?

A Licensed Therapist Can Help

At times, wisdom appears to be a rare commodity. People may expand their knowledge or learn something new — memorize new facts, take in new information through reading or education, and learn how to effectively study and apply that knowledge.

Wisdom, though, is different. It requires a deeper level of thinking. Before a person considers becoming wiser, they may take time to define wisdom for themselves. That is, what does wisdom mean to them personally and why is it important to develop wisdom in their day-to-day life.

A Simple Wisdom Definition

Wisdom is complex, but you can start to learn more about this important quality with a simple definition. Merriam Webster defines wisdom as an “ability to discern inner qualities and relationships”; a “good sense”; “accumulated philosophical or scientific learning”; and “a wise attitude, belief, or course of action.”

Synonyms For Wisdom

Another way to think about wisdom is to think about its synonyms. Here are a few to consider:


Acumen only describes one aspect of wisdom. Having acumen means being able to quickly perceive and discern information in your environment. You may have business acumen, for example, if you see business opportunities or challenges quickly and have an immediate understanding of a given business situation.


Caution can be a synonym for wisdom in some situations. If a person is cautious, they may pay careful attention to the likely effects of what they’re doing. Caution is important if a person’s goal is to avoid danger, failure, or harm. However, sometimes being wise involves taking a risk. A wise person would likely identify the risk and prepare for the possibility of danger or failure, or simply falling short.

Common Sense

Some people use common sense as a substitute for wisdom. Others feel that it falls short of the higher understanding that's associated with wisdom. If you're using common sense, you have asensible, practicalunderstanding of a thing, person, or situation that can guide you in making ordinary decisions.


Experience is a strong pillar of wisdom. Perhaps that's why it's easier for someone who is older to be wiser than someone who is younger, though that doesn’t always hold true. Experience is the sum of everything a person has been through in life, and it can come from formal learning, hands-on training, or simply by living each day. But it arguably is only wisdom when a person learns from what’s happened and can apply it to the present.


A wise person may see potential problems and outcomes around the corner —and prepares for them before they happen. Foresight can keep you from making mistakes. However, it's important to understand that foresight isn't equal to worrying. If a person has foresight, they may identify and acknowledge what could happen and do what is needed to prepare for it. Worrying, conversely, is identifying a potential problem and becoming anxious about it. Wisdom and worrying are not synonymous.


Intelligence is closely related to wisdom. If a person is intelligent, they’re able to understand principles, facts, meanings, and truths. They may also apply what they know in real life. Intelligent people may see the truth of situations as a wise person does.


Making sound judgments is generally part of wisdom. A wise person may be able to judge people and situations correctly, justly, and intelligently. People with sound judgment can assess a situation and make an appropriate decision based on the circumstances. Judgment may help a person make a sound financial decision, accurately evaluate relationships, and pursue their passions.


Prudence means the quality of being wisely cautious. When you're prudent, you're careful. You show superior discretion. You may also be frugal, because you understand the need to be prepared to meet future needs. Most commonly used in the phrase “It would be prudent to...”, prudence demonstrates the ability to anticipate different possibilities and pursue a course of action that will lead to the best possible outcome—even if that course of action is to abstain from something or remain silent.


Some people may equate wisdom with balance. Balance’s components are problem-solving, understanding context, ethical behavior, tolerance, and empathy. A wise person may balance their ability to solve problems with their ability to tolerate what can't be changed, for instance.

Interested In Deeping Your Understanding Of Wisdom?

A Licensed Therapist Can Help


When a person reaches enlightenment on a subject, they’ve achieved complete clarity in the way they perceive the subject. Their extensive knowledge, combined with sound reasoning, allows them to make wise and understanding decisions possible.


A person’s reason refers to their rationality. It includes their conceptions of people and situations, as well as judgments and intuition about them. Only then can a person make sound decisions and live a positive life that comes with true wisdom.

What Is The Deeper Meaning Of Wisdom?

When a person is wise, they can use knowledge from their past with insight. Knowledge is utilized only after a person truly understands what they have learned and are able to apply it to both current situations and those down the road.

It’s worth noting that wisdom isn't simply an academic ability. It’s born out of everyday practice. A wise person combines their knowledge, experience, and intuitive understanding to make the right decisions. They practice ethical behavior, empathy, and tolerance of life's uncertainties and differences. This may make the world a better place for others.

How To Develop Wisdom

While there’s no standard or quick way for a person to develop wisdom, there are a few ways to be intentional about wisdom. Below are a few principles a person seeking wisdom can live by:

Seek Knowledge

Knowledge generally forms the basis of wisdom. Knowledge is readily available for many. People may acquire new knowledge by reading, taking educational courses or classes, working at a job, or watching educational videos. While these are a few suggestions, there’s no limit to where or when a person can develop knowledge.

Practice Reflection, Not Rumination

Taking time to reflect on the past may increase a person’s wisdom over time. Thinking about the past in a nonjudgmental way, pondering it from different perspectives, and trying to see it as clearly as possible are positive strategies. This is a logical place to start for wisdom, as it’s not only thought. It is also action.

Thinking seriously and deeply about past experiences is not the same as ruminating. Rumination is cycling through the same thought repeatedly, without gaining any new insights or considering different ways of understanding. It won’t necessarily increase a person’s wisdom; instead, it's more likely to cause negativity, such as increased anxiety or depression.

Seek Out New Experiences

Because wisdom often comes a result of meeting new people and trying new things, people may choose to seek out these opportunities to develop wisdom. This could include traveling, starting a new hobby, or joining a book club. Again, the options for new experiences are limitless and depend on each person.

Online Therapy Can Help You Find Your Path

Connecting with an online therapist may be a beneficial choice for a person considering the deeper meaning of wisdom. Whether you are looking to understand yourself better, dive deeper into your own thoughts, or reflect on your life experiences, an online therapist can serve as an important guiding force for positive change.

Online therapy with a platform like BetterHelp is convenient and affordable, and it’s been proven to be as effective as in-person therapy. You can get started from the comfort of your own home by filling out a short questionnaire. Working with a therapist may help you practice positive reflection rather than rumination.


Wisdom can feel ambiguous and challenging to understand from a simple definition, and it can mean something different to everyone. But as a person has new life experiences and learns from their actions, they may come closer to understanding and practicing wisdom in their day-to-day life.

Licensed therapists at BetterHelp are available to walk beside you on a path towards living a happier, more fulfilling life.

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