college slang for "intelligence, wit, cleverness, common sense," 1706, from Greek nous, Attic form of noos "mind, intelligence, perception, intellect," which was taken in English in philosophy 1670s as "the perceptive and intelligent faculty." The Greek word is of uncertain origin. Beekes writes, "No doubt an old inherited verbal noun ..., though there is no certain etymology."
Old English seglinge, "act of one who or that which sails," verbal noun from the source of sail (v.). Gradually coming also to mean "the art or rules of directing a ship." Figurative use of smooth sailing for "easy progress" is from 1840.
Yes; I must press on this marriage; Georgina has not wit enough to manage him—at least till he's her husband, and then all women find it smooth sailing. [Bulwer Lytton, "Money: A Comedy in Five Acts," 1840]
CHEESE IT. Be silent, be quiet, don't do it. Cheese it, the coves are fly; be silent, the people understand our discourse. ["Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence," London, 1811]
Originally in English a legal phrase (1560s) from Medieval Latin, with the sense of "to wit," introducing an explanatory or parenthetical clause, it also introduced the derogatory meaning alleged in libel cases, which led to broader meaning. As a verb, from 1706.
The successful Columnist puts his own personality into his column. It is not a case of impersonal jesting and the heaping up of cold, blue-lit diamonds of wit. The reader likes the column because it reveals a daily insight into another man's soul—and he finds this other soul likeable. [C.L. Edson, "The Gentle Art of Columning," 1920]
"person with a natural gift or talent," 1925, originally in prizefighting, from natural (adj.). But an older sense is almost opposite to this, "half-wit, idiot" (one "naturally deficient" in intellect), which was in use 16c. to 19c. In Middle English, the word as a noun meant "natural capacity, physical ability or power" (early 14c.), and it was common in sense "a native of a place" in Shakespeare's day. Also in 17c., "a mistress."