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A person well-adapted to surviving on the mean streets of Real Life. Street Smarts can only be learned through experience and honing one's gut instincts, and their lessons are directly applicable to immediate and life-threatening situations. This directly contrasts with Book Smarts, learned through dry textbooks in a purely theoretical environment, as in an isolated ivory tower.

The core components to Street Smarts are:

  • Ability to read others and determine intent. One need not be a Living Lie Detector to qualify as Street Smart, but a character is far more likely to be unduly suspicious than overly trusting. The talent for deception also tends to work both ways, and the character can be quick with a bluff or misdirection.
  • Ability to think on the fly and to improvise. The Indy Ploy is made of this, as is MacGyvering.
  • Ability to keep one's cool, even when bullets are flying. The better a character is at Casual Danger Dialogue, the more likely they are to be Street Smart.
  • Awareness of one's surroundings. Knowing the terrain is a huge plus.
  • Good gut instincts. Their intuition may not always aid them, but if everything else fails them, their gut will guide them to the right place.

This trope often goes hand-in-hand with Book Dumb, illustrating that there is more than one way in which to be "intelligent". In that case, Street Smarts are usually the "underestimated" variety of intelligence, and often implied to be more important in the end. After all, a Street Smart (but Book Dumb) character might fail a Chemistry test, but a Book Smart (and Street Stupid) character may ace the test yet fail to make it out of danger alive without the assistance of their Street Smart intellectual "inferior". That said, a Street Smart character by no means must be a poor academic performer. It is in fact entirely possible to be Street Smart and Book Smart, allowing for a character with encyclopedic knowledge that can apply their skills on the fly even in heated situations.

As street smarts are learned through experience and time, even naive characters can grow to be increasingly street-wise over the course of a single series. Taking a level in badass often involves an increase in street skills.

The Satisfied Street Rat is by definition this type, as is any successful Street Urchin. A frequent component of the Guile Hero and core ally of the Cowboy Cop.

Street Stupid characters may fall under the heading of No Social Skills. If they're Book Smart on top of it, they may be a Ditzy Genius.

Examples of Street Smart include:


  • Batman; absolutely a case of Street Smart meets Book Smart.
  • Pretty much every comic book character who's more of a brawler than a formal fighter usually qualifies. Examples include The Punisher, Daredevil, Wildcat Grant, Jason Todd, The Thing and countless others.
    • Matt Murdock graduated from Columbia University Law School, which makes him another case of Alley Acumen meets Monograph Mastery.
  • As a former Street Urchin grown into a Guile Hero, Gambit of the X-Men would be a card-carrying member of this trope.
  • Parodied in Calvin and Hobbes, where Moe the bully is said to be "streetwise".

 Calvin: That means he knows what street he lives on.


Films -- Animation

  • Aladdin's title character. Although he does make some notoriously poor judgment calls in almost every other area imaginable, his survival instinct, ability to think on his feet and improvise are fundamental to his very character.

 Aladdin: Hey, I'm a street rat, remember? I'll improvise.



  • Commander Vimes in Discworld, who grew up on the streets of Ankh-Morpork, and went on to become its senior police officer. Captain Carrot, while no longer a Naive Newcomer, still isn't quite there.
    • Not that a guy who can cold-cock a troll with a right cross AND make Ankh-Morpork children act like boyscouts actually needs to be.
  • In Sid Fleischman's novel The Whipping Boy, the eponymous whipping boy.
  • Kim from Rudyard Kipling's Kim.
  • Vin from Mistborn grew up on the streets and in thieving crews, naturally she had to become extremely street smart in order to live.
  • As "The Man With the Twisted Lip" illustrates, Sherlock Holmes had enough street smarts to negotiate Victorian London's East End slums, which is no inconsiderable amount of street smarts

Live-Action TV

  • Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is Street Smart, as are most Slayers in general. They typically contrast with the Book Smart Watchers. However, Buffy's poor academic performance is chalked up to other factors rather than being Book Dumb (she's actually quite intelligent), and Giles can be rather Street Smart himself, especially compared to other watchers.

Tabletop Games

  • This is the common interpretation of the "Wisdom" score in many Tabletop RPGs, especially Dungeons and Dragons. Wisdom is generally a combination of "Common Sense/Instinct" and "Street Smarts", which fits in with several of the skills who use Wisdom and directly contrasts "Intelligence" (the classic "Book Smart" stat).
    • 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons has a skill called "Streetwise". Which is the ability to, for example, enter a strange town and find out who's who. What the "word on the street" is, etc.
  • The "Streetwise" ability in Old World of Darkness and New World of Darkness RPGs gives the character street smarts, manifesting as gut instinct while on the streets and knowledge of the underground.

Video Games

  • Leon from F-Zero (more specifically, he made his debut in X) is said to be not particularly bright. This is possibly Justified Trope, given that his backstory involves in his home planet Zou being sacked by invaders (Leon himself losing his parents and his left eye) and still shakily recovering 12 years down the road, so Leon most likely never had the chance to receive a proper education. However, his natural instinct has made him very cunning. When the Arrows were vacationing on his planet, he showed superb handling of Super Arrow's King Meteor in his first foray with a F-Zero machine (impressing the couple to the point that they adopted him). He had a slow start when he finally joined the F-Zero races, but caught on quick, resulting in a respectable track record over time (not that you'd know this; due to the poor A.I. he's been plagued with in GX, he usually ends up dead last).

Web Comics

  • Order of the Stick
    • Haley is generally the most Street Smart member of the Order. Roy wouldn't be so bad, if it weren't for his abysmal lack of a Sense Motive.
    • On the villain's side, Xykon is far more Street Smart than Redcloak, which is one of the reasons the power dynamic goes the way it does even though Redcloak is in all other respects the smarter of the two.

Western Animation

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
    • Sokka has an inclination for street smarts that is honed over time.
    • Toph is also very Street Smart.
    • And Azula dangerously so.