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Meaning and Origin of “To Wit”

“To wit” is a phrase meaning, namely, that is to say. It is an adverb used when you are about to state or give a description of something more precisely. The phrase “to wit” was used for the first time in 1320, and it meant “to be observed, noted, or ascertained.” Later the meaning of the phrase was changed to “to be sure,” “indeed,” or “namely.” By the late 16th century, it took on its modern meaning: “that is to say.” It has evolved to mean something similar in speech and formal or legal writing.

Synonyms and Antonyms of “To Wit”

Some of the synonyms for wit are, namely, especially, specifically, particularly, scilicet, in other words, more precisely, and videlicet. Some of its antonyms include broadly, generally, commonly, and usually. Other words related to “to wit” are expressly and particularly.

How to Use “To Wit”

Sometimes, to understand the word’s true meaning, you need to know how to use it correctly in your speech or writing. You can use the phrase “to wit”:

a. To give examples for a more significant statement. For example:

They traveled the world collecting animals, to wit, monkeys, big cats, crocodiles, snakes, insects, and even elephants.
There are two great reasons we should go to the maintains, to wit, there are beautiful views and clean air to breathe.
There are avoidable and unavoidable reasons for failing exams, to wit, inadequate preparation, health conditions, poor learning environment, etc.

b. You can use “to wit” the same way you use “namely.” For example:

Only eight students passed the examination, namely (to wit) Peter, Audrey, Andrew, Jason, Raine, Joshua, Collins, and Robyn.
The middle-aged police officer testified to having found hard drugs, wit, marijuana, and cocaine on the suspect.

c. You can use “to wit” at the beginning of the sentence, or it can follow a comma. For example:

The Counselor’s advice was sound, to wit, “Put important things first.”
She is starting to see the effects of the disease, to wit, her eyesight is less reliable, and she can’t always see what is right in front of her!
The criminals were punished, to wit, they each received a 30-year sentence.

d. In legal writing and contracts, “to wit” is commonly used to introduce statements.

For Example

The company is incorporated in many states in the US, to wit, New York, Alaska, Arizona, and California.

It is also used to enumerate a list. It is common to see a colon behind it, separating it from whatever follows it.

Video Example:

500 Days of Summer (2009)
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