English

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Etymology

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PIE word
*h₁ésmi

Calque of Latin praesentia animī,[1] from praesentia (state of being present, presence) + animī (the genitive singular of animus (intellect, mind)).

Pronunciation

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Noun

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presence of mind (uncountable)

  1. Focused alertness, good sense, quick-thinking resourcefulness, or stability of feeling and thought, 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. [], London: [] W[illiam Rufus] Chetwood, []; and T. Edling, [], published 1722, →OCLC, page 121:
      [A]s you are to hear the moſt unexpected and ſurprizing thing that perhaps ever befel any Family in the VVorld, I beg you to promiſe me you vvill receive it vvith Compoſure and a Preſence of Mind ſuitable to a Man of Senſe.
    • 1726 October 28, [Jonathan Swift], Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. [] [Gulliver’s Travels], volume I, London: [] Benj[amin] Motte, [], →OCLC, 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 VII, in Woodstock; Or, The Cavalier. [], volume II, Edinburgh: [] [James Ballantyne and Co.] for Archibald Constable and Co.; London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, →OCLC, page 183:
      [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, “Negotiation”, in The History of Pendennis. [], volume I, London: Bradbury and Evans, [], published 1849, →OCLC, page 97:
      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; but the rest of the party assembled in Cos's sitting-room were, perhaps, a little flurried at Pendennis's apparition.
    • 1871, Harriet Beecher Stowe, “Wedding, and Wedding-trip”, in Pink and White Tyranny: [], Boston, Mass.: Roberts Brothers, →OCLC, page 56:
      During the whole agitating scene, Lillie kept up her presence of mind, and was perfectly aware of what she was about; []
    • 1902 September 18, P[elham] G[renville] Wodehouse, “In which the Affairs of Various Persons are Wound Up”, in The Pothunters, London: A[dam] & C[harles] Black, [], published 1924 (1925 printing), →OCLC, page 265:
      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, and the Head turned his attention to him.
    • 2001 June 24, Roger Rosenblatt, “New Hopes, New Dreams”, in Time[1], New York, N.Y.: Time Inc., →ISSN, →OCLC, archived from the original on 2012-08-30:
      Somebody had the presence of mind to give [Christopher] Reeve mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and the paramedics arrived about a minute later.
    • 2022 August 10, Mike Esbester, “New Understandings from Old Incidents”, in Rail, number 963, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire: Bauer Media, →ISSN, →OCLC, 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.
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