cog·​ni·​tive ˈkäg-nə-tiv How to pronounce cognitive (audio)
: of, relating to, being, or involving conscious intellectual activity (such as thinking, reasoning, or remembering)
cognitive impairment
: based on or capable of being reduced to empirical factual knowledge
cognitively adverb

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How should you use cognitive?

Cognitive skills and knowledge involve the ability to acquire factual information, often the kind of knowledge that can easily be tested. So cognition should be distinguished from social, emotional, and creative development and ability. Cognitive science is a growing field of study that deals with human perception, thinking, and learning.

Examples of cognitive in a Sentence

Homo sapiens' survival is founded in their filling an evolutionary niche referred to as the cognitive niche. Daniel Grassam, Skeptical Inquirer, July/August 2001
Researchers are debating whether heading balls can dent the cognitive skills of young soccer players for life. Lisa McLaughlin, Time, 5 June 2000
Further into the forebrain, motor functions trail off and cognitive functions, involving planning and thinking about the future, begin. Sandra Blakeslee, New York Times, 8 Nov. 1994
Recent Examples on the Web Misbranding and false advertising are rampant with dietary supplements, including false claims of curing cancer, improving immune health, improving cognitive functioning, improving fertility, improving cardiovascular health and, of course, promoting weight loss and weight control. Emily Hemendinger, The Conversation, 6 Feb. 2024 Related article Hearing aids may reduce your risk of dementia by half, study says The cognitive benefits remained regardless of the existence of any of the five types of neurological conditions. Sandee Lamotte, CNN, 5 Feb. 2024 Humans get by on orders of magnitude less information, says the paper’s lead author Wai Keen Vong, a computational cognitive researcher at New York University. Lauren Leffer, Scientific American, 1 Feb. 2024 Andrew Huberman, a Stanford associate professor and host of a popular health and science podcast, has mused that nicotine enhances cognitive abilities. Bloomberg, The Mercury News, 1 Feb. 2024 Researchers evaluated their cognitive function with a series of tests at the beginning and the end of each study.1 These cognitive tests included recalling word lists both immediately and after a delay, subtracting numbers backward, and naming vegetables and animals, Manson explained. Lauryn Higgins, Health, 31 Jan. 2024 Trump usually brings up his cognitive testing as part of his stump speech questioning Joe Biden's mental and physical fitness, mocking the sitting president's speech or movements. Lalee Ibssa, ABC News, 31 Jan. 2024 The study, published in The Journal of Neuropsychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences, found that those who engaged in crafts like knitting and crocheting had a diminished chance of developing mild cognitive impairment and memory loss. Jane E. Brody, Charlotte Observer, 31 Jan. 2024 One possibility, the study authors wrote, is that traits like conscientiousness help people perform better on cognitive tests, indicative of their ability to cope with the challenges of dementia. Scott Lafee, San Diego Union-Tribune, 30 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cognitive.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Medieval Latin cognitīvus "concerned with knowing," from Latin cognitus, past participle of cognōscere "to get to know, acquire knowledge of" + -īvus -ive — more at cognition

First Known Use

1586, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of cognitive was in 1586

Dictionary Entries Near cognitive

Cite this Entry

“Cognitive.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


cog·​ni·​tive ˈkäg-nət-iv How to pronounce cognitive (audio)
: of, relating to, or being conscious mental activities (as thinking, reasoning, remembering, imagining, learning words, and using language)

Medical Definition


cog·​ni·​tive ˈkäg-nət-iv How to pronounce cognitive (audio)
: of, relating to, or being conscious intellectual activity (as thinking, reasoning, remembering, imagining, or learning words)
the cognitive elements of perceptionC. H. Hamburg
cognitively adverb
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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