Looking for a word that would describe an individual's ability to find a weak spot in someone or a system, like one would find a weak spot in a knight's armor or an animal's hide.

For an example sentence, "In a demonstration of ______, the native Americans knew where to strike the bison with their arrows where even bullets could fail to bring the beast down."

I can't seem to find a word that quite describes such a trait after some searches online.

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    I'm 70% certain that no such word exists. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 2 '17 at 18:47
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    opportunistic has developed a mostly negative meaning to it, but some of it's synonyms could work in particular cases. adept arch artful astute bland brainy cagey calculating capable clever conciliatory conniving contriving courteous crafty cunning deft delicate dexterous discreet gracious guileful intriguing opportunistic polite prudent savvy scheming sensitive sharp shrewd sly smooth strategic suave subtle wily thesaurus.com/browse/opportunistic – Tom22 Jun 2 '17 at 18:55
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    of those above I might suggest, "cunning", "strategic", "deftness", "shrewdness" – Tom22 Jun 2 '17 at 18:57
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    "going for the jugular" is a idomatic way of putting this that more specifically talks about exploiting weak spots. – Tom22 Jun 2 '17 at 18:59
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    I really don't like cunning for this usage. Or, at least, not in the example provided. Cunning indicates a certain amount of deviousness, and there is no deviousness in one hunter being able to fell a bison with a bow, when another hunter can not fell the creature with a gun. There is no cleverness, nor cunning, in such an accomplishment. That is knowledge, aka wisdom. To call it "clever", or "cunning", would be dismissive of the talent and knowledge shown. I concur that there is likely no single word that describes this ability. – Corvus B Jul 27 '17 at 0:59

Acuity. A keeness of perception.

Finesse. To handle skillfully or adroitly, suggesting the knowledge and intent to bring about a desired result.


You can look for a single word or may consider whether the term is the Achilles heel:

...a small but fatal weakness

Collins English Dictionary, 12th Ed.

Based on the Greek myth of Achilles as he was held by the heels and dipped into the waters of the River Styx for a permanent protective coating...except where he was held...at the heels.

Encyclopædia Britannica

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    I'm less so looking for a physical object that the ability to see the Achilles heel. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a good word for that. – Jeremy Kato Jun 2 '17 at 23:21

Know the enemy

I couldn't find a definition.

Your sentence:

In a demonstration of "know the enemy," the native Americans knew where to strike the bison with their arrows where even bullets could fail to bring the beast down.


I have two answers.

  1. Acumen: "the ability to make good judgments and quick decisions, typically in a particular domain."

  2. Intuition: "direct perception of truth, fact, etc., independent of any reasoning process; immediate apprehension;" "a keen and quick insight;" "the quality or ability of having such direct perception or quick insight" In philosophy- "immediate cognition of an object not inferred or determined by a previous cognition of the same object; any object or truth so discerned; pure, untaught, noninferential knowledge"

Neither one specify the ability to hone in on a weakness, but they are good general purpose terms for what you are describing.

  • Hello, Pam. While these would perhaps fit the examples, they don't match 'a single word for “Finding or Knowledge of Vulnerability or Weakness / Finding the Weak Spot” ' anywhere near closely enough. – Edwin Ashworth Jul 31 '17 at 22:55

Percipience (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/percipience):


  1. perceiving or capable of perceiving.
  2. having perception; discerning; discriminating: a percipient choice of wines.

Example: "In a demonstration of their percipience, the native Americans knew where to strike the bison with their arrows where even bullets could fail to bring the beast down."

Closely related, 'perceptiveness'.


A warrior or hunter can (will) use knowledge or awareness of anatomy to know the vulnerability or identify a weak spot.

Anatomical knowledge implies an awareness of vulnerabilities and weak spots, an ability to find weakness - and the implication is quite inseparable.

"In a demonstration of anatomy, the native Americans knew [exactly] where to strike the bison with their arrows where even bullets could fail to bring the beast down."



The word that came to my mind was ingenuity.

the quality of being cleverly inventive or resourceful; inventiveness:



I don't think you will find a single word, but there is a good phrase, go for the jugular, defined by Collins as:

to make a savage and destructive attack on an enemy's weakest point.

Examples: You smelt blood and went for the jugular. Times, Sunday Times (2008).....

He spurned the trivial and went for the jugular. Christianity Today (2000)

Bath spurned the three points and went for the jugular. Times, Sunday Times (2009)

(The comment of @Tom22 just registered on my brain, but comments don't take precedence over answers. More importantly the OP may not want a phrase.)

Single word for the bison example or the jousting example: There are two parts to bringing down the bison with arrows. First is to know where the vulnerable spot is; second is to be able to hit the vulnerable spot with enough force to bring the bison down.

The first is calls on ancient knowledge or tribal knowledge or some such phrase. The second is skill born of long practice.

These two factors combine into expertise. Merriam-Webster:

special skill or knowledge : the skill or knowledge an expert has

The comparison with bullets should be sharpened. A bullet aimed with skill at the right spot will also bring the bison down. A bullet aimed badly or with lack of knowledge of the right spot may just wound the bison.

I suggest your sentence be rewritten as:

In a demonstration of expertise, the native Americans could fell a bison with their arrows by hitting the critical spot, although bullets, badly aimed, would fail to bring the beast down.

This fits your bison example, and it would also fit the example of jousting. For your example of

ability to find a weak spot in someone or a system

another word, such as perception, is needed, and two answers have already supplied it: the answers of @Shane and @Stephen Santa Fe.

In summary, I doubt very much there is a single word fitting both situations -- hunting or combat, and social competition.


Insight can have the meaning of the understanding of the truth of a situation which in this case would allow for finding vulnerabilities or weakness in a system or target.

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