Let's Bring Back 'Excogitate' and Make Planning Sound Scholarly

Updated May 3, 2022
Young businessman holding his head and thinking deeply
    Young businessman holding his head and thinking deeply
    Hinterhaus Productions / DigitalVision /
    Used under Getty Images license

In every great heist movie, there’s a scene where the mastermind lays out the plan for the rest of the team. By the end of the scene, the team is already planning how they’re going to spend the huge sum of money. The heist team is excogitating, and chances are, you do it all the time — or at least, you should be.

The Plot (and Your Vocabulary) Thickens

Not only is excogitate fun to say (ex-CODGE-ih-tate), it’s an impressive addition to your vocabulary. It comes from the Latin root cogitat-, meaning “to consider or think deeply.” When you add the prefix ex-, meaning “out,” the definition of excogitate is “to think or plot out.” You can excogitate all types of things, from the ingredients of your dinner to your next major bank robbery.


Doesn’t It Mean ‘Not Cogitate’?

If cogitate means “to think deeply,” then it’s tempting to say that excogitate means “to not think deeply” — but that’s not the case. English speakers often associate the prefix ex- to mean “not,” as in “She’s my ex-girlfriend” (she’s not my girlfriend). But ex- simply means “out.” Your girlfriend is out of the relationship; therefore, she’s out of the title of “girlfriend.”

The difference between cogitate and excogitate is based on where the ideas go. If you think deeply about the new girl you want to ask out and how pretty she is, you’re cogitating about her. If you’re planning out how you’re going to ask her out (and possibly make your ex jealous in the meantime as an added bonus), you’re excogitating.


Take a Second or Two to Excogitate

It’s easy to cogitate when you actually should be excogitating. Some moments when excogitating might be beneficial include:

  • worrying a lot about your homework (cogitating) vs. planning out how to finish it in time (excogitating)

  • studying an amazing sports car and how much you want one (cogitating) vs. planning when to cross the street to avoid it hitting you (excogitating)

  • meditating about how much you love your dog while walking him (cogitating) vs. figuring out how to get home since you weren’t paying attention and now you’re lost (excogitating)

  • contemplating if you really want that strawberry milkshake (cogitating) vs. thinking through the rest of your order so the people behind you in the drive-thru line stop honking (excogitating)


Now Bring It Back (But Be Cool About It)

Excogitate is simply too great of a word to leave in the dictionary or possibly one of the Harry Potter books. To bring excogitate back into your everyday conversation without sounding like the word nerd you are, try these out:

  • “That party sounds lit! Let me excogitate how to get there without my mom finding out about it.”

  • “Have you excogitated about what to get me for my birthday yet?”

  • “We excogitated a plan to see Ariana Grande in concert, but my car broke down.”

  • “You’re dating two guys who live in the same building? Man, your dates must take some serious excogitation.”

On second thought, it may be difficult to use excogitate casually and not sound like a wordsmith — but who cares? Validate your verbosity and strut your sesquipedalian stuff.


Other Fancy Words For Thinking It Through

Your brain is an incredibly complex meat machine, and the word think just doesn’t cover what it can do. That’s why excogitate is a helpful addition to your lexicon. If you’re looking for a more formal word with a similar but slightly different meaning, try out:

  • cerebrate - to ponder deeply

  • contemplate - to think about something from different perspectives

  • deliberate - to carefully consider before making a decision

  • distill - to find the most important part of an idea

  • envisage - to imagine for the future

  • meditate - to focus deeply for an extended period of time

  • perpend - to reflect on

  • ruminate - to consider an issue, sometimes to the point of not letting it go

Word Nerds Unite

Now that you’ve added a great new word to your vocabulary, it needs some friends! To learn more amazing words, check out: