ge·nius | \ˈjēn-yəs, ˈjē-nē-əs\
plural geniuses or genii\ˈjē-nē-ˌī \

Definition of genius 

1a plural genii : an attendant spirit of a person or place

b plural usually genii : a person who influences another for good or bad He has been accused of being his brother's evil genius.

2 : a strong leaning or inclination : penchant

3a : a peculiar, distinctive, or identifying character or spirit the genius of our democratic government

b : the associations and traditions of a place

c : a personification or embodiment especially of a quality or condition

4 plural usually genii : spirit, jinni

5 plural usually geniuses

a : a single strongly marked capacity or aptitude had a genius for getting along with boys— Mary Ross

b : extraordinary intellectual power especially as manifested in creative activity

c : a person endowed with extraordinary mental superiority especially : a person with a very high IQ

Keep scrolling for more

Choose the Right Synonym for genius

gift, faculty, aptitude, bent, talent, genius, knack mean a special ability for doing something. gift often implies special favor by God or nature. the gift of singing beautifully faculty applies to an innate or less often acquired ability for a particular accomplishment or function. a faculty for remembering names aptitude implies a natural liking for some activity and the likelihood of success in it. a mechanical aptitude bent is nearly equal to aptitude but it stresses inclination perhaps more than specific ability. a family with an artistic bent talent suggests a marked natural ability that needs to be developed. has enough talent to succeed genius suggests impressive inborn creative ability. has no great genius for poetry knack implies a comparatively minor but special ability making for ease and dexterity in performance. the knack of getting along

The Spiritual Origins of Genius

The belief system of the ancient Romans included spirits that were somewhere in between gods and humans and were thought to accompany each person through life as a protector. The Latin name for this spirit was genius, which came from the verb gignere, meaning "to beget." This sense of "attendant spirit" was first borrowed into English in the 14th century. Part of such a spirit's role was to protect a person's moral character, and from that idea an extended sense developed in the 16th century meaning "an identifying character." In time, that meaning was extended to cover a special ability for doing something, and eventually genius acquired senses referring particularly to "very great intelligence" and "people of great intelligence."

Examples of genius in a Sentence

Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton were great scientific geniuses. You don't have to be a genius to see that this plan will never work. He was a genius at handling the press. She's now widely recognized as an artist of genius. He's admired for his comic genius. My plan is simple—that's the genius of it. The genius of these new computers is their portability.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

Until marketing geniuses Larry Lucchino and Charles Steinberg dared to saturate the market with Padres games on TV, the team wasn’t on the tube very often, so most of this is about 20 years old. Nick Canepa,, "Grant and Orsillo offer welcome frivolity in Padres’ TV booth," 14 July 2018 In a world that so easily dubs white men geniuses, but views Black girls as needing less protection and care from as young as five years old, nurturing their spirits and dreams can be transformative. Abby Haglage,, "4 Black Girls With Big Dreams & The 4 Women Living Them," 13 July 2018 Thousands of people look to their videos on product essentials and routines to help maintain their curly hair, so their hands-on experience has helped them discover some genius tricks. Devon Abelman, Allure, "11 Curl-Washing Tips From Real Women With Kinky-Curly Hair," 12 July 2018 No one knows which marketing genius first started shaving off a penny or a dollar from an even price point. Adam Snitzer, miamiherald, "Why 9 is my favorite number," 12 July 2018 Del Toral in turn connected her to Marc Edwards, a civil and environmental engineering professor out of Virginia Tech and a MacArthur genius grant winner. Richard Horan, The Christian Science Monitor, "'The Poisoned City' tells the horrific story of Flint's contaminated water," 10 July 2018 People’s reaction to learning that USC’s current faculty includes four Nobel laureates and four recent winners of the MacArthur genius grant is decidedly different. Alex Bhattacharji, Town & Country, "Can USC Survive Scandal and Shed Its Spoiled-Kid Reputation Once and For All?," 10 July 2018 The model and social media genius took to Twitter to point out the logistical flaws in Trump's plan, since the moral and ethical flaws are more than obvious. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Chrissy Teigen Slammed Trump for His Recent Elizabeth Warren and #MeToo Comments," 7 July 2018 There’s no cat-and-mouse game going on, no taunts from a genius criminal. James Poniewozik, New York Times, "‘Sharp Objects,’ a Mesmerizing Southern Thriller, Cuts Slow but Deep," 5 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'genius.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of genius

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for genius

Latin, tutelary spirit, natural inclinations, from gignere to beget

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about genius

Listen to Our Podcast about genius

Phrases Related to genius

a stroke of genius

Statistics for genius

Last Updated

7 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for genius

The first known use of genius was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for genius



English Language Learners Definition of genius

: a very smart or talented person : a person who has a level of talent or intelligence that is very rare or remarkable

: a person who is very good at doing something

: great natural ability : remarkable talent or intelligence


ge·nius | \ˈjēn-yəs \

Kids Definition of genius

1 : a very smart or gifted person

2 : great natural ability He has artistic genius.

3 : a very clever or smart quality The lads came … chattering all the time about Tom's stupendous plan and admiring the genius of it.— Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer


ge·nius | \ˈjē-nyəs, -nē-əs \
plural geniuses or genii\-nē-ˌī \

Medical Definition of genius 

1 : extraordinary intellectual power especially as manifested in creative activity

2 : a person endowed with transcendent mental superiority specifically : a person with a very high IQ

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on genius

What made you want to look up genius? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


required by fashion, etiquette, or custom

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!