Foresight

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Two meanings of foresight may be distinguished. Their meanings hardly appear related, but their etymologies are identical. (See For- - fore- for some detail.) Both are common nouns; both are pronounced with the stress on the first syllable, 'FOR-site' IPA: /'fɔːr saɪt/.

  • The more abstract of the meanings is 'the ability to see what will happen'; 'looking forward'; 'a sight, or vision, of the future'. This may be either a rational prediction based on experience or analysis, as when an economist announces a prediction of the coming year's trends 'based on foresight'; or an altogether more mystical gift of supernatural powers, as when 'the seventh son of a seventh son' declares that he can foresee the date and manner of the death of someone. This form of foresight, which may be called 'the second sight' or simply 'the sight' in those communities which accept its possibility or reality, has little credit in academic circles. You are advised not to use it in academic writing - unless you are studying anthropology or a similar social science.
    • Foresight, in this abstract sense, has come to mean 'preparing against the eventualities of the future', as when a farmer who foresees a hard winter lays up additional fodder for the animals being kept: 'he has the foresight' to provide for them. This is akin to the idea of 'providence'.
  • The more concrete sense of foresight is that of the device for aiming found at the muzzle of a gun, rifle or cannon, usually in the form of a vertical bar or point, which is over the muzzle, and should be aligned with the backsight (usually a 'V' or a ring in shape) and the target to aim the firearm.
Do not confuse either of these with the homophone Forsyte -
Forsyte is the fictional name of the central family in Galsworthy's chronicle novels known collectively as 'The Forsyte Saga'. The name may have been chosen for its echoes: the outstanding quality of the Forsytes is their prudence and saving nature, accumulating wealth.
  • There is also an old Scots surname Forsyth (pronounced with the stress on the second syllable, whose '-th' is unvoiced, like that in 'think': 'for-SCYTHE', IPA: /fɔːr 'saɪθ/). Bearers of this name include Bill Forsyth, Scots director of the films Gregory's Girl and Local Hero, amongst others; Frederick Forsyth, journalist and writer of successful thrillers; and Bruce Forsyth, a television entertainer. An earlier bearer of the name was William Forsyth (1737-1804), a botanist after whom the flowering plant forsythia (where the '-th-' is voiced, by influence of the following (unstressed) vowels: IPA: /fɔːr 'saɪ ðɪ ə/) is named.