1785, as a noun, “practical sense, intelligence”; also a verb, “to know, to understand”; West Indies pidgin borrowing of French savez(-vous) (“do you know”), Portuguese (você) sabe (“you know”) or Spanish (usted) sabe (“you know”), all from Vulgar Latin *sapere, from Latin sapere (“be wise, be knowing”) (see sapient). The adjective is first recorded 1905, from the noun.
- (informal) Shrewd, well-informed and perceptive.
- 2012 March 22, Scott Tobias, “The Hunger Games”, in AV Club:
- That such a safe adaptation could come of The Hunger Games speaks more to the trilogy’s commercial ascent than the book’s actual content, which is audacious and savvy in its dark calculations.
Chinese Pidgin English
- 1860, The Englishman in China, London: Saunders, Otley, and Co., page 44:
- My no sarby.
- I don’t know.
- Gow, W. S. P. (1924) Gow’s Guide to Shanghai, 1924: A Complete, Concise and Accurate Handbook of the City and District, Especially Compiled for the Use of Tourists and Commercial Visitors to the Far East, Shanghai, page 108: “Savvy: (Portuguese) know; understand; No savvy ? Do you not understand ?”