That high school hoops phenom who plays like an NBA pro? The sixth grader who's already asking questions about organic chemistry? They're both precocious — meaning they're way beyond their years in skill or knowledge.

When you look at the Latin roots of precocious, it all makes sense. When pre (meaning "before") joins coquere (meaning "to ripen"), you have something that is ripening prematurely. And in the case of precocious, you are usually describing young people who have some adult-like quality about them. Maybe it's their vast vocabulary, maybe it's their ease with Calculus, or maybe it's just applying lipstick.

Definitions of precocious

adj characterized by or characteristic of exceptionally early development or maturity (especially in mental aptitude)

“a precocious child”
“a precocious achievement”
having the capacity for thought and reason especially to a high degree
farther along in physical or mental development
relatively slow in mental or emotional or physical development
stupid, unintelligent
lacking intelligence
backward, feebleminded, half-witted, slow-witted
retarded in intellectual development
idiotic, imbecile, imbecilic
having a mental age of three to seven years
having a mental age of between eight and twelve years
afflicted with cretinism
not as far along as normal in development
dim-witted, simple, simple-minded
lacking mental capacity and subtlety
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adj appearing or developing early

precocious flowers appear before the leaves as in some species of magnolias”
being or occurring at an early stage of development

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