presence of mind

Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



presence of mind (uncountable)

  1. Focused alertness, quick-thinking resourcefulness, stability of thought and feeling, or good sense, especially in spite of circumstances which are distracting, stressful, or otherwise challenging.
    • 1722 (indicated as 1721), [Daniel Defoe], The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, &c. [], 3rd edition, London: [] W[illiam Rufus] Chetwood, []; and T. Edlin, []; W[illiam] Mears, []; J. Brotherton, []; C. King, and J. Stags, [], published 1722, OCLC 745118774:
      "[A]s you are to hear the most unexpected and surprising thing that perhaps ever befell any family in the world, I beg you to promise me you will receive it with composure and a presence of mind suitable to a man of sense."
    • 1726 October 28, [Jonathan Swift], “The Author by an Extraordinary Stratagem Prevents an Invasion. []”, in Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. [] [Gulliver’s Travels], volume I, London: [] Benj[amin] Motte, [], OCLC 995220039, part I (A Voyage to Lilliput):
      [T]his magnificent palace would have infallibly been burnt down to the ground, if, by a presence of mind unusual to me, I had not suddenly thought of an expedient.
    • 1826, [Walter Scott], chapter 19, in Woodstock; Or, The Cavalier. [], volume (please specify |volume=I, II, or III), Edinburgh: [] [James Ballantyne and Co.] for Archibald Constable and Co.; London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, OCLC 991895633:
      [S]he snatched a pistol from the wall, on which some fire-arms hung, and while she screamed to her father to awake, had the presence of mind to present it at the intruder.
    • 1848 November – 1850 December, William Makepeace Thackeray, chapter 11, in The History of Pendennis. [], volume (please specify |volume=I or II), London: Bradbury and Evans, [], published 1849–1850, OCLC 2057953:
      The Major and Captain Costigan were old soldiers and accustomed to face the enemy, so we may presume that they retained their presence of mind perfectly.
    • 1871, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Pink and White Tyranny, ch. 5:
      During the whole agitating scene, Lillie kept up her presence of mind, and was perfectly aware of what she was about.
    • 1902, P. G. Wodehouse, The Pothunters, ch. 18:
      It speaks well for Barrett's presence of mind that he had grasped the situation and decided on his line of action before Welch went.
    • 2001 June 24, Roger Rosenblatt, "New Hopes, New Dreams," Time:
      Somebody had the presence of mind to give Reeve mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and the paramedics arrived about a minute later.
    • 2022 August 10, Dr Mike Esbester, “New understandings from old incidents”, in RAIL, number 963, pages 58-59:
      He slipped and fell under the wagon's wheels, losing his left leg. His presence of mind was quite amazing. The report notes that Webb's knowledge of first aid probably saved his life, and he was able to instruct others who came to help him.