Savant vs servant

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Savant and servant are two words that are close in spelling and pronunciation, but have very different meanings. They are sometimes confused. We will examine the definitions of savant and servant, where these words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

A savant is a person who is very learned, such as a distinguished scientist. A savant may also be someone who possesses such an impressive natural ability it almost seems preternatural. The word savant is derived from the French word savant, which means a learned person. The plural form is savants.

A servant is someone who is employed to perform duties for others. A servant may be a domestic servant such as a maid or butler, or a public servant such as a bureaucrat or senator. A servant is not a slave, as he is either in a paid position or willingly volunteers his services out of devotion or obligation. The word servant is derived from the Old French word servant, meaning foot-soldier or one who serves. The plural form is servants.


Smithsonian magazine recently did a piece on Churchman, calling him a “video savant … a self-taught engineer who can transform strips of moldy, decades-old videotape into crisp digital images.”  (The Chestnut Hill Local)

According to the BBC, Cicoria is far from the only known case of “sudden savant syndrome” or “acquired savant syndrome,” in which severe physical trauma leaves surviving victims with new skills and orientations. (Newsweek Magazine)

“Imagine being a servant in the 1930s and shown the ballroom in Hayfield House,” said Megan Mac Gregor, the acting head librarian and student engagement and outreach librarian at Nesbitt Library at Penn State Wilkes-Barre. (The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader)

A civil servant proposed the ultimate motion in Parliament by asking his girlfriend for her hand in marriage on the floor of the House of Commons. (The Independent)