ge·​nius | \ ˈjēn-yəs How to pronounce genius (audio) , ˈjē-nē-əs \
plural geniuses or genii\ ˈjē-​nē-​ˌī How to pronounce genius (audio) \

Definition of genius

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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



Definition of genius (Entry 2 of 2)

: showing or suggesting great cleverness, skill, or originality : brilliant Remember how genius Henry Winkler was on Arrested Development?Entertainment Weekly "I think Lindsey Buckingham's guitar playing is genius, and Stevie Nicks' voice is really unusual."— Justin Hawkins As "genius" as the New York raver kids may be, it's in Britain that the mixing of fashion and club music in the nineties is at its most exciting.Vogue

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

Noun 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: Noun Millay’s genius lay in her ability to infuse old poetic forms with a savvy modern voice. Maggie Doherty, The New Yorker, 9 May 2022 The genius of Abreu had been to promote El Sistema as a $100 million government social program, and the well-being of hundreds of thousands of the nation’s poorest children depended on it. Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times, 8 Apr. 2022 The genius of the book is its painstaking examination of a uniquely American question: How does a secret intelligence service exist in an open democratic society? Washington Post, 25 Mar. 2022 Developing genius is a way of life, not a life hack. Nona Djavid, Forbes, 14 Mar. 2022 The genius of the cake is that there’s room to riff at pretty much every step. Bon Appétit, 1 Mar. 2022 To me, the comic genius is that Mr. Rigatoni is talking to Mr. Fusilli. Bernhard Warner, Fortune, 15 Dec. 2021 The genius behind Squid Game is a celebrated director and screenwriter in South Korea, known for making films that are both critically acclaimed and commercially successful including My Father, Silenced, Miss Granny, and The Fortress. Regina Kim, Vulture, 30 Nov. 2021 Black genius is behind the Automatic Gear Shift, the Three-Traffic Light, Blood Banks, Gas Masks, Refrigerated Trucks, GPS, Home Security, 3D movies, COVID vaccinations and so much more. Pamela Edwards Christiani, Essence, 9 Nov. 2021 See More

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.

First Known Use of genius


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


1924, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for genius


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

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Last Updated

12 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Genius.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for genius


ge·​nius | \ ˈjēn-yəs How to pronounce genius (audio) \

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, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer


ge·​nius | \ ˈjē-nyəs, -nē-əs How to pronounce genius (audio) \
plural geniuses or genii\ -​nē-​ˌī How to pronounce genius (audio) \

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

More from Merriam-Webster on genius

Nglish: Translation of genius for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of genius for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about genius


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