I'm searching for a single-word descriptor that means "mental quickness", "mental reaction speed" or very similar with little additional connotation (unlike alacrity or wits).

EDIT: The word has to be able to stand on its own like an icon; I can't rely on context for meaning. It is an attribute for a table-top role playing game. The character will have a score or rating to represent how mentally quick they are that they will need to call up readily during a game. The word doesn't need to imply that their reactions are correct or accurate, only fast.

EDIT 2: The game is set in the mid-near future and is Post-Cyberpunk in nature. Any words that reflect that setting are especially helpful.

  • 1
    Why do you specifically reject alacrity as an undesirable connotation? One of its meanings is quickness" . . . – Robusto Jun 9 '15 at 13:25
  • 1
    You got something against smiling/positivity? ^_^ – Robusto Jun 9 '15 at 13:57
  • 2
    not necessarily accurate or even correct?? Quick to be dead wrong is part of your concept? – TRomano Jun 9 '15 at 14:37
  • 2
    There are many other mental attributes at play: Logic and Intuition would be leveraged to make sure the course of action is correct. This word simply needs to cover mental haste. – Gavin42 Jun 9 '15 at 14:42
  • 3
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – kjbartel Jun 10 '15 at 10:13

23 Answers 23



Alternatives: Synapse, Neuron, Reflex

Since it's a one word name for a score in a table-top game, I don't think the definition has to mean exactly what the score represents, it just has to be memorable with the player and loosely correlated to the actual definition.

  • That's amazing. Thank you! I'll let you know which I go with after I talk to some friends. – Gavin42 Jun 9 '15 at 22:20
  • 1
    not "impulse," but "impulsiveness." – dbliss Jun 9 '15 at 22:30
  • 2
    @dlibss I would think implusiveness implies a negative affect though, meaning perhaps that someone reacts too quickly to be useful. impulse sounds like a bonus attribute, impulsiveness sounds like a negative one. – daboross Jun 10 '15 at 6:46
  • 4
    I think Reflex would certainly the most used in common vernacular. – McGafter Jun 11 '15 at 12:33
  • 1
    Synapse is what we ended up going with. It fits the setting perfectly and is actually forcing us to go back and re-name the other attributes as well. – Gavin42 Jun 11 '15 at 17:01


sharpness or keenness of thought, vision or hearing: intellectual acuity; visual acuity

ODO; Wiktionary

  • 3
    This is by far the most accurate word for what the requester is looking for. – JohnH Jun 10 '15 at 17:03
  • 1
    Definitely better than Alacrity, which is what I was going to use. However, Impulse was suggested a few hours later and I plan to go with that instead. – Gavin42 Jun 10 '15 at 17:18
  • @Gavin42 - but impulse literally makes no sense here. I have no idea why it was suggested, or why you've accepted it. It's got nothing to do with speed. – Davor Jun 11 '15 at 11:06
  • Impulse control is preventing yourself from reacting quickly in a purely mental/emotional way, so Impulse by contrast is nearly perfect. I actually changed it to Synapse this morning, though. – Gavin42 Jun 11 '15 at 12:40
  • 3
    I love the word, and it beats a lot of the others. However, when I am presented with the word "Acuity" with no context I think of Intelligence, Brilliance, and Keen Senses far before I get to "mental reaction speed", and that is what this question was looking for. – Gavin42 Jun 11 '15 at 12:52

Acumen may fit :

  • The ability to make good judgments and quick decisions, typically in a particular domain. (ODO)

Perhaps Perspicacious

Cambridge online:

quick in noticing, understanding, or judging things accurately:

  • Thanks for teaching me a new word! Sadly, the perception aspect throws the word into too different a realm for me. If I were to use it I'd need to use the form, "Perspicacity". – Gavin42 Jun 9 '15 at 13:33

Quick-witted: adj. showing or characterized by an ability to think or respond quickly or effectively.

Source (Google)


After seeing that you want to use it as a measure in a game without context I would suggest wit

Wit: noun. mental sharpness and inventiveness; keen intelligence.

Source (Google)

I also like resourcefulness.

Resourcefulness: able to deal skillfully and promptly with new situations, difficulties, etc.

- Dictionary.com

  • 8
    I think modern usage of wit is more of a social reaction speed. I wouldn't consider someone witty if they sprouted off a 5 digit by 5 digit multiplication instantly. I would if they had an instant comeback to an insult. Both require "mental sharpness" I suppose, but they manifest in very different ways. – corsiKa Jun 9 '15 at 14:26

I like Wayfaring Stranger's answer of perspicacious (or for a stand-alone noun, perspicacity), but for a RPG context, consider this: it might be ok for success to be implied in the trait, only for your players to fail anyway. Someone with a low agility score, for example, isn't actually very agile; someone with a low charisma isn't charismatic.

The same way, the stand-alone word used for this trait can, out-of-game, mean what will be implied about the character in-game only if they have a high score in the trait.

For actual words, I recommend wit, cunning , or acumen, depending on if this will be the basis for glib remarks, on-the-fly explanations, or accurate on-the-spot assessment.

  • @Gavin42, which of the answers in this post did you end up going with? – user1717828 Jun 9 '15 at 17:16
  • 1
    Not one of the words, specifically. The advice in paragraph one and two made me go back to 'alacrity' with fresh eyes, and I used that. Also, the word I used for physical speed was Celerity, and the two sound great together. – Gavin42 Jun 9 '15 at 18:00

sagacious (adj)

If you comment on something at a deeper level, you are making a sagacious observation.

The word is a descendent of Latin sagus "prophetic" and is related to the Old English word seek.

  • "keenness of perception, quality of being acute.

Synonyms include discerning, insightful and another formal word perspicacious.

  • 1
    I would use "Sagacity", but the problem I have here is the same as with "Perspicacity", steps too far into the realm of perception. I'm a big fan of the word, though :) – Gavin42 Jun 9 '15 at 13:45
  • 1
    Great word, but in my experience refers to depth and profundity more than quickness. – Duke Jun 10 '15 at 18:16
  • 2
    This is definitely more along the lines of "knowledge" than "intelligence," which is a classic dichotomy in role-playing games. – rschwieb Jun 11 '15 at 0:30

You could use...

Mental reflexes

The phrase is almost as common as physical reflexes, according to this ngram.

See Google books results

And this article from counselling resource.

EDIT: Now that I know your context, try:


[IN SINGULAR] A special or instinctive aptitude or ability for doing something well:

  • 1
    My only admonishment is that I'm looking for a single word. Thanks for the ngram info, though. – Gavin42 Jun 9 '15 at 13:30
  • 3
    @Gavin42: You could use reflexes, and the context could clarify that you're talking about mental reflexes. At the moment, I can't think of a better single-word. And even if you find one, chances are that it will be obscure. – Tushar Raj Jun 9 '15 at 13:33
  • The word has to be able to stand on its own like an icon. I can't rely on context. Thanks though! – Gavin42 Jun 9 '15 at 13:35
  • @Gavin42: I edited your post a bit. Hope you don't mind. Btw, is this about math? – Tushar Raj Jun 9 '15 at 13:38
  • 1
    @Gavin42: See edit. – Tushar Raj Jun 9 '15 at 13:45

I can give you some ideas from a psychological perspective as I teach and research in this area: In psychology when referring to how quickly an individual's cognitive skills operate we use the term Processing Speed. When referring to it by a single word, it's simply Processing.

This refers to the speed with which one thinks, while Auditory Processing and Visual Processing refer to the perceptual abilities. Other facets of cognition include:

  • Logic/Reasoning (Obvious utility, usually incorrectly referred to as intelligence).
  • Memory (Working Memory for Processing Speed, LTM for recall of methods, etc.).
  • Attention (Sustained, Selective & Divided - three different attributes reflecting an individual's ability to attend to a task in each of these conditions).
  • Sequencing (ability to determine which actions make up a complex action such as weaving on a loom.)
  • Proprioception (Sense of own body, ability to learn movements through muscle contractions).

Hope this helps.



Having or showing an ability to think or react quickly and effectively [OD]

Also, you can simply call the ability quick-mindedness.

  • Easy to understand so you don't have to rely on the context. – 0.. Jun 9 '15 at 14:24
  • There is also repartee for quickness in response. – 0.. Jun 9 '15 at 14:52

I'll toss "whip-smart" into the ring. It's not fancy, but it definitely gets the point across in a concise and standalone manner, while does not imply any positivity/negativity regarding attitude or personality. Merriam Webster does not recognize it as a word, but several other dictionaries do.



Choice 1: Quip Choice 2: Snap

Both these words, being monosyllabic, are crisp.

As you want names for charracters you can make them longer "Quipper" or "Snappy"



Agility is the ability to be quick and graceful. You might have agility on the basketball court or in the courtroom, or even with your gaming remote. The noun agility can be used for both mental and physical skills in speed and grace. Your mental agility might allow you to follow both conversations at once.


mental/physical cleverness or skill.(For mental skills, you may say 'mental adroitness')


(of a person) quick to notice and understand things.


having or showing sharp powers of judgement; astute, acute.

Rapier-like wit

very quick and accurate or incisive.


having or showing an ability to think or respond quickly and effectively.

Other words that are close to 'mental quickness': : razor-sharp, quick, quick-witted, agile, nimble, ingenious, clever, intelligent, bright, brilliant, smart, canny, intuitive, discerning, perceptive, perspicacious, penetrating, insightful, incisive, piercing, discriminating, sagacious, wise, judicious; informal: on the ball, quick off the mark, quick on the uptake, brainy, streetwise, savvy; informal: suss; informal: pawky; informal: heads-up, whip-smart; dated: long-headed; rare: argute, sapient




  1. fully aware and attentive; wide-awake; keen: an alert mind.
  2. swift; agile; nimble.

Possibly for your intended use in a role playing game:



  1. state or quality of being vigilant; watchfulness

Where Vigilant is defined as:


  1. keenly watchful to detect danger; wary: a vigilant sentry.
  2. ever awake and alert; sleeplessly watchful.

These both seem to me to avoid problems with the attribute relating to any physical response.



Break the limits of the English syntax.

  • 1
    Could you please give a definition for this, or have you just made it up? – Chenmunka Jun 11 '15 at 11:39


Cyber meme - Your instructions are no match for my command prompt.


Fast/fluid actions


Fast chess moves, if you have players.

are some one-word adjectives for mental agility that I use.


Since a slow mental reaction speed is often opposed with intelligence, I propose :

brilliant, which conveys a light speed image (nothing is faster than light speed).

Highly intelligent.


Dexterity is a good choice:

: clever skill : the ability to think and act quickly and cleverly : the ability to easily move in a way that is graceful : the ability to use your hands skillfully

  • 2
    Dexterity refers to adroitness in using the hands or body and specifically derives from the word for the right hand. I'm looking for something quite different, purely mental readiness. – Gavin42 Jun 9 '15 at 19:42

how about the word QUICK, all the above answers imply intellect but not so much speed.


While perspicacious highlights the ability the ability of being mentally gifted, it does not offer a sense or an idea of the speed at which such ability is performed.

Keen readily comes to mind, so does sapient -- "showing quick and ardent responsiveness" If you're looking for a ready answer to mental blitz then you have to create it..


This is two words, but how about mental chronometry? It's not exactly accurate since it seems to refer to the measurement of reaction and cognitive processing speed rather than to mental quickness itself... but it may be close enough for your needs and has a nice cyberpunk feel to it.

You could even just go with "chronometry" for one word -- it seems unlikely to be a source of confusion.

  • On the contrary, it would be a source of confusion. Chronometry is the science of measuring time, not speed. – Chenmunka Jun 12 '15 at 9:54
  • @Chenmunka We're not talking here about speed as in physical velocity, but rather how much time it takes to complete mental tasks. I think the measurement of durations of time -- which is all that chronometry can achieve since there isn't really an absolute "value" of time -- is very closely related to that. – Desty Jun 12 '15 at 11:47

I know this is a single word request. But I had similar problem and settled on the phrase Presence of Mind - POM for short.



From the Oxford:

[MASS NOUN] The mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.