I have a situation/feeling that occurs to me frequently and I'm not sure what the adjective is to describe it (or if there even is one). I'd love to hear your ideas on the matter.

The situation is one where I feel like I have some general knowledge, typically gained through experience, that lets me look at a situation more clearly and then take some action (or at least know what action to take) in a positive direction.

Here are some examples:

  1. My young children frequently argue over who gets to sit in the middle seat at a three-seat table during dinner. As an adult, my viewpoint on who-sits-where is that it makes no difference in the grand scheme of things. The seat can be shared by each person over multiple nights, etc. It's a viewpoint my kids simply don't have the life experience to understand, so I usually just decide and tell them what to do. On my part it's an emotionless decision.

  2. Today I have a whole lot of work ahead of me. I'd like to leave by 3pm and go enjoy the sunshine, but it just isn't going to happen. I know that to get everything done I'll probably be working until 10pm. I'm fairly emotionless about it. I could say I'm resigned to the fact that I have to work, but resigned implies some despondence, which I don't feel. What I really feel (based on experience) is that I just have to do it and I'm neither happy nor sad about it.

I'd love to use the word circumspect because it combines what feels like a circle and introspection, but of course that word means something else unrelated.

Sangfroid is not quite right, because there's no precondition for a difficult or dangerous situation.

Other words like stoic or resolute have the emotional content right, but don't convey the implication of experience that underlies the decision. They also tend to convey a hard edge to a way of thinking. I want the connotation to be softer, like chill or calm.

Guru might describe the type of person, but is a noun and is generally too broad. I'm thinking more of a situational word.

So what do you think?

  • 4
    You're looking to pack a lot into a single word. It's possible someone will come up with something that's eluding me, but I suspect you're going to have to stick with "knowledgeable, resolute, and calm," which wouldn't be the worst thing that could happen.
    – phenry
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 20:14
  • 4
    Not an adjective, but the first thing that popped into my mind upon reading the title (slightly less so the question itself) is Dumbledore. Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 23:04
  • 2
    If you like the noun "guru," how about the adjective "zen?"
    – fluffy
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 23:11
  • 1
    @JanusBahsJacquet Then an adjective suggestion: Dumbledoresque or Dumbledorian Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 13:10
  • 1
    @Tim Or Dumbledorean, perhaps. Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 13:13

13 Answers 13



wise, judicious, or prudent: sage advice.



The alliterative phrase 'cool, calm and collected' fits quite well, but if you want a single word, perhaps equanimous fits the bill. It's the adjective form of equanimity:

calmness and composure, especially in a difficult situation.

Samuel Johnson defined it as:

evenness of mind, neither elated nor depressed


Philosophical is close to what you are asking for.

rationally or sensibly calm, patient, or composed.

If someone is philosophical, the person has the characteristics of a philosopher:

Characteristic of a philosopher, as in equanimity, enlightenment, and wisdom.

A detailed explanation from vocabulary.com:

To be philosophical is to stay detached and thoughtful in the face of a setback, or to approach a tough situation in a level-headed way. When his girlfriend left him, Bernard was philosophical: "If she loves me, she'll return."

In ancient Greece, philosophy literally meant a love of knowledge and wisdom. In modern times, the field of philosophy is more specifically the study of how we think through problems. Great philosophers have all sorts of theories about how and why we think and act the way we do, but the word philosophical often just means that you choose to be more thoughtful and look at the 'big picture' when dealing with challenges.


I think wise may convey the meanings you are describing:

  1. Having the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; sagacious: a wise leader.

  2. Exhibiting common sense; prudent: a wise decision. b. Shrewd; crafty.

  3. Having great learning; erudite.

  4. Provided with information; informed. Used with to: was wise to the politics of the department.

Source: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Wise

  • 2
    Wise doesn't necessarily imply action. Sagacious on the other hand does. Sort of feels right too.
    – par
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 20:23
  • A few words similar to wise, which might also be good options: perspicacious (seeing clearly), sagacious (sage-like), shrewd (having sharp judgment), worldly-wise (wise through experience, can also imply jaded), and discerning.
    – wordsmythe
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 20:24

Since no one seems to have hit it yet, let me offer adroit. The Free Dictionary says it "implies ease and natural skill, especially in difficult or challenging situations."

  • Good word, but I don't think that this is what the OP is looking for....he cancelled sangfroid because there is no danger/difficulty; besides for the fact that his calm derives from having "some general knowledge, typically gained through experience" [see second paragraph of question]
    – Shokhet
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 22:30
  • Look at any paragraph and it gives different information.
    – Robusto
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 22:32
  • 1
    It's a good word anyway
    – Shokhet
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 22:36

Particularly consider level-headed, which was briefly mentioned in two other answers:

(idiomatic) Sensible; rational; possessing sound judgment.
Usage notes: Often having the connotation of remaining calm, composed, and careful, of not acting out of reflex or excessive emotion.
Synonyms: calm, deliberative, stable

Several phrases or hyphenated compounds starting with even may apply:
on an even keel (or, even-keeled), “(idiomatic, of emotions, etc.) The state or characteristic of being under control and balanced.” and “(idiomatic, of a business or other activity) The state or characteristic of being well controlled and running smoothly.”
even-tempered, “Remaining calm even in situations that would cause many others to become angry, frustrated, panicky, etc.”
even-minded, “Having equanimity” [which is, “the state of being calm, stable and composed, especially under stress”]
even-handed, “Treating fairly.”

Here are a few more words to consider as well, of varying relevance depending on the circumstances you want to describe. (Some may go a bit far afield.)

sedulous, “Diligent in application or pursuit; constant, steady, and persevering in business or in endeavors to effect an object; steadily industrious; assiduous.”
assiduous, “Hard-working, diligent or regular (in attendance or work); industrious.”
perseverant, “Enduring; persistent.” (Someone who keeps on trucking, come what may, is perseverant.)
determined, “Decided; resolute, possessing much determination.”
resolute, “Firm, unyielding, determined.”
intrepid, “Fearless; bold; brave.”
tenacious, with the sense “unwilling to yield or give up; dogged” perhaps being most well-known, but the sense “holding together; cohesive” may be more relevant in the context of the question.
fortitudinous, “Having fortitude; courageous”
impartial, “Treating all parties, rivals, or disputants equally; not partial; not biased; fair.”
stoical, “Enduring pain and hardship without showing feeling or complaint.”
valiant, “Showing courage or determination; heroic.”
stalwart, “Firmly built” or “Courageous”. Synonyms of of stalwart under the two senses include, for the firmly built sense, firm, resilient, stout, strong, robust; and for the courageous sense, brave, bold, courageous, daring, valiant.








Competent and capable each describe someone with experience and skill who can steadily get done what needs to be done without getting sidetracked by distractions and emotion. Less competent and capable people are more readily diverted from their objectives.

com·pe·tent adjective \ˈkäm-pə-tənt\ : having the necessary ability or skills : able to do something well or well enough to meet a standard


ca·pa·ble adjective \ˈkā-pə-bəl, in rapid speech ˈkāp-bəl\ : able to do something : having the qualities or abilities that are needed to do something : skilled at doing something : able to do something well



I'd like to suggest professional; while it strictly means someone who does a given task for pay (i.e. a professional), it is commonly used to refer to describe an act that is done with skill and composure, particularly when those things are difficult to come by, and by extension is used to describe a person who does this. It is used in this capacity even if the action taken is not what the person is paid to do.

When used in this manner, it is often extended to describe the person as a consummate professional.

That said, I will caution that it may be ambiguous in context, if the "paid to do so" meaning is a possible interpretation.


A number of the suggestions would fall outside a common vocabulary, and therefore would fail in terms of communicating the desired meaning.

I do like the suggest of "deliberate" (as adjective, not verb). It implies giving the matter due consideration, and providing a calm decision.


Perhaps "zen" would work?

It's not necessarily related to Zen Buddhism, the word has taken on a meaning of its own in Western languages.

  • You might want to fix the "it's", considering that you're offering English language advice. ;)
    – Richiban
    Commented Jul 8, 2014 at 13:14

I like "wise" and "philisophical", as two of the suggestions above, but having re-read your examples, I feel "phlegmatic" comes closer to the emotional state you refer to in the examples. I believe it conveys the "emotionless" state which connects both examples.


This question has nagged at me for a while. Lately I've begun to think poised comes pretty close; the definition being ..."composed, dignified, and self-assured." My question has as criteria, "knowledgable, resolute, and calm." I think a case could be made that each word that defines poised requires attributes of all three. Food for thought?

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