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

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But, ultimately, he was hailed globally as a genre-bending genius who had done for the tango something like what Picasso did for modern art. Los Angeles Times, "They called him tango’s assassin. But Astor Piazzolla’s musical reboot made him a legend," 15 Apr. 2021 Art historians are starting to reevaluate the legacy of Jo van Gogh-Bonger, the sister-in-law of Vincent van Gogh who played a crucial role in convincing the world to recognize the artist’s genius. Kristen Bellstrom, Fortune, "The pandemic is hurting female scientists—that’s bad news for all of us," 15 Apr. 2021 Which raises the question: What PR genius in the Biden administration thought that a good way to memorialize the 20th anniversary of 9/11 was to abandon the country where the plot was incubated? Peter Bergen, CNN, "Biden's magical thinking on Afghanistan," 14 Apr. 2021 Which raised a question that had never been completely answered: How exactly did the tortured genius, who alienated dealers and otherwise thwarted his own ambition time and again during his career, become a star? New York Times, "The Woman Who Made van Gogh," 14 Apr. 2021 But while he was embraced for his Hoosier roots and ABA genius, Leonard honed his skills as the Baltimore Bullets’ coach in 1963-64. Michael Marot,, "Bob ‘Slick’ Leonard, Hall of Fame coach who got his start with the Baltimore Bullets, dies at 88," 13 Apr. 2021 But the focus is on Horikoshi’s genius and his life, drenched in sorrow. Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, "The best movies to watch with family, from 'Up' and 'Black Panther' to 'Wizard of Oz'," 10 Apr. 2021 The new Ken Burns documentary Hemingway takes in the genius, the agony, and the sins of this defining American artist. Kyle Smith, National Review, "The Many Paradoxes of Ernest Hemingway," 10 Apr. 2021 Fans, family, and friends expressed their condolences for the hip-hop genius across social media in lieu of the devastating news. D'shonda Brown, Essence, "Rapper DMX Dead at Age 50," 9 Apr. 2021

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.

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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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Time Traveler for genius

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

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Last Updated

18 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Genius.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Apr. 2021.

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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 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, 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

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