Bonus if this word talks about this person using this knowledge to guide others. But word without guidance in meaning can still be used in my sentence as an adjective.

The professor was ——- and used that to guide his students towards the right direction.

  • 3
    Nothing wrong with "the professor could see the big picture". Also, the "towards" really wants to be an "in".
    – RegDwigнt
    Nov 9, 2018 at 22:29
  • 1
    The words "and used that" somewhat complicate the provision of an answer - some solutions sound a bit awkward with this construction. Nov 9, 2018 at 23:49
  • "Wise" is a very good word.
    – Dan
    Nov 10, 2018 at 13:03
  • really, in "US Business talk" the exact phrased used is "a big picture person".
    – Fattie
    Nov 10, 2018 at 14:31
  • Sagacious would seem the obvious choice.
    – Phil Sweet
    Nov 10, 2018 at 20:56

10 Answers 10


The professor was visionary:

with the ability to imagine how a country, society, industry, etc. will develop in the future.

(Cambridge Dictionary)

  • I'm not sure but I personally distinguish between "being able to envision a future" and "seeing the big picture [of a situation]", i.e. being able to spot patterns, being able to see things from a different perspective. I would for example say that Elon Musk is a visionary, but not far-sighted in that other sense. Is there such a distinction? To me, visionary is too close to dreamer/romancer.
    – marts
    Nov 10, 2018 at 19:40

In British English the word is far-sighted.

far-sighted adjective UK ​ /ˌfɑːˈsaɪ.tɪd/ US ​ /ˌfɑːrˈsaɪ.t̬ɪd/

far-sighted adjective (WISE) ​

uk having good judgment about what will be needed in the future and making wise decisions based on this:

Buying those shares was a very far-sighted move - they must be worth ten times their original value now.


However I believe that farsighted in American English may have a different meaning.


Based on discussion in the comments below and thanks to the link provided by Chappo, I quote Merriam-Webster. However I also note that Timbo would assume hyperopia by default. I defer to native speakers of AmE in their knowledge of their own version of English.

farsighted adjective far·​sight·​ed | \ˈfär-ˌsī-təd \ Definition of farsighted 1a : seeing or able to see to a great distance b : having or showing foresight or good judgment : SAGACIOUS 2 : affected with hyperopia


  • 1
    Why do you believe AmE is different? Did you check Merriam-Webster? The only difference is MW doesn't hyphenate it. You might like to edit your answer re AmE, as on this point it's currently misleading for future readers. Happy to upvote if edited, as "farsighted" was the first word that I thought of too :-) Nov 9, 2018 at 23:41
  • @Chappo 2: affected with hyperopia. I guess this different meaning was meant. Nov 9, 2018 at 23:47
  • 1
    @OleksandrKaraberov not hyperopic; any native English speaker will instinctively choose the intended meaning. English abounds in metaphoric usages. If he was luminary, we don't assume he's "a body that gives light". If he was gifted, it wouldn't mean he'd been donated. In fact, the play on double meanings is an intrinsic element of much of our verbal humour. Nov 9, 2018 at 23:54
  • @Chappo Thanks for a nice insight. Valid point. Not being a native speaker I miss sometimes this subtle ability to first recognise a metaphorical rather than literal meaning. But as for your other examples I'm not that slow-witted :) Nov 10, 2018 at 0:03
  • @Chappo Native AmE speaker here and I would absolutely assume hyperopia or at least sense 1a from MW, a non-metaphorical reference to the sense of sight. Without further context, I would assume an implication that the students were all nearsighted or blind. Nov 10, 2018 at 2:57

You can say that the professor was ‘luminary’ - a shining light that inspired or guided others, or illuminated their path.

Definition: ‘a person who inspires or influences others, especially one prominent in a particular sphere. "one of the luminaries of child psychiatry" synonyms: leading light, guiding light, inspiration, role model, hero, heroine, leader, expert, master; More’


You can say the professor was far-seeing:

Having shrewd judgement and an ability to predict and plan for future eventualities.

This word is quite simple and yet has a connotation of acumen and shrewdness.

  • 4
    Far-sighted sounds better to me.
    – Lawrence
    Nov 9, 2018 at 23:30

I went with:


Wise, especially as a result of great experience.

Which can be used as noun or adjective.

"The professor was sage, and used that attribute to guide his students towards the right direction."


"The professor was a sage, and guided his students in the right direction."


"See the big picture" is itself a little ambiguous.

If you're thinking of seeing how all the parts fit together at a given point in time, consider astute, perceptive, observant, or insightful:

astute (adj.) having or showing shrewdness and an ability to notice and understand things clearly

perceptive (adj.) characterized by sympathetic understanding or insight

observant (adj.) Keep, perceptive

insightful (adj.) exhibiting or characterized by the power or act of seeing into a situation

However, the student-teacher example makes me thing that you may be looking for an adjective that means the teacher can see how a situation may play out over time.

In that case, consider perspicacious, far-sighted, or even plain-old wise:

perspicacious (adj.) of acute mental vision or discernment

far-sighted (adj.) having or showing foresight or good judgment : SAGACIOUS

wise (adj.) characterized by wisdom : marked by deep understanding, keen discernment, and a capacity for sound judgment.

(All definitions are from Merriam-Webster online: https://www.merriam-webster.com/)


To approximate the ability to see the big picture in a single word, we can perhaps use clear-sighted.

The professor was clear-sighted and used that to guide his students towards the right direction.


clear-sighted ADJECTIVE
Thinking clearly and sensibly; perspicacious and discerning.

‘a clear-sighted sense of what is possible and appropriate’

‘What is needed is a clear-sighted reappraisal of where we stand, before we can plot a path forwards.’

perspicacious ADJECTIVE
Having a ready insight into and understanding of things.

‘If only our parents could have been perspicacious enough to see our talent and force us into showbiz.’

discerning ADJECTIVE
Having or showing good judgement.

‘Physicians are by inclination and training discerning men, wise in human relations and keen in judgement.’


Lofty, or Sublime. Expansive is close, with a strongly benevolent meaning. Something along those lines, lot's on this page here... --> https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/thesaurus/lofty

  • 1
    I don't think a professor would like to be called "lofty" as this suggests arrogance, and "sublime" is an excessive compliment and inappropriate to the context here. Nov 10, 2018 at 4:57
  • He didn't ask what compliment would be well accepted by a professor, that's a different stackexchange.
    – Þorn
    Nov 10, 2018 at 7:30
  • Quite right. Nonetheless "lofty" is a poor answer, and "sublime" is simply wrong for "a wise person". That's just my opinion, of course, but there's a possibility others might agree with me. You might therefore consider editing your answer to provide evidence to support why you think each of your two words is correct - e.g. quoting from a dictionary. For further guidance, see How to Answer. Nov 10, 2018 at 8:23

I can't think of a single adjective, but "The professor didn't lose the forest in the trees" could be a useful idiom.


I propose Sagacious:

of keen and farsighted penetration and judgment : DISCERNING

sagacious judge of character

caused by or indicating acute discernment

sagacious purchase of stock

[Merriam- Webster]

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