genius

1 of 2

noun

ge·​nius ˈjēn-yəs How to pronounce genius (audio)
ˈjē-nē-əs
plural geniuses or genii ˈjē-nē-ˌī How to pronounce genius (audio)
1
a
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
3
a
: 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

genius

2 of 2

adjective

informal
: 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

Did you know?

The Spiritual Origins of Genius

Today, the word genius tends to carry cerebral connotations, rather than spiritual ones, but the word has its origin in ancient Roman religion, in which the genius (from Latin gignere, “to beget”) was originally a spirit who gave continuity to a family or clan over generations, and later the attendant spirit of a person or place. When genius first made its home in the English language in the 14th century it carried this “attendant spirit” meaning. Over time, the word developed the extended sense of “an identifying character or spirit,” a meaning inspired by the fact that part of a genius’s role was to protect a person’s moral character. Later genius came to refer to both remarkable talent or intelligence, and to someone who has such—genius developments, if you ask us.

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

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.
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
The sitcom follows a younger version of Jim Parsons's character, Sheldon Cooper, a boy genius who navigates the late '80s and early '90s. Haadiza Ogwude, The Enquirer, 4 Apr. 2024 But my favorite feature is a simple yet genius detail: a separate zip phone compartment that perfectly fits my iPhone. Lauren Fischer, Travel + Leisure, 4 Apr. 2024 Keep scrolling for more genius kitchen storage and organizational finds at Walmart. Ali Faccenda, Peoplemag, 3 Apr. 2024 One of the executive producers is Beach Boys musical genius Brian Wilson. Joe Rubin, Sacramento Bee, 27 Mar. 2024 Otherwise, shop these 10 clever favorites, including garden essentials and genius kitchen gadgets, while Amazon Big Spring Sale prices are as low as $9. Stephanie Osmanski, Better Homes & Gardens, 25 Mar. 2024 The genius mind suggests pointing it at the sun and so a chain of events unfolds, with meta world gaming playing a large part in it all. Jazz Tangcay, Variety, 23 Mar. 2024 His style suggests that anyone is capable of genius; the real challenge is to not be consumed by the weight of discovery, to wield an idea responsibly. Shirley Li, The Atlantic, 23 Mar. 2024 To real estate investor Matt Abbott, building a new ballpark in the East Crossroads neighborhood seems like a genius move. Mike Hendricks, Kansas City Star, 22 Mar. 2024
Adjective
These genius outdoor pumpkin display ideas will make your Halloween yard decorations the envy of the neighborhood. Sarah Martens, Better Homes & Gardens, 19 Sep. 2023 While Netflix has made plenty of mistakes over the years, one absolutely genius decision by them was to invest this heavily into Korean content. Paul Tassi, Forbes, 27 Mar. 2023 Elizabeth, on the other side, was absolutely genius. Audrey Conklin, Fox News, 13 Mar. 2023 The roommate, called The Banished Earl, has a heroin habit and is the semi-genius lead singer of their band. Carolyn Kellogg, BostonGlobe.com, 1 Dec. 2022 But even more than his stretchy limbs or super-genius intellect, Reed's defining feature is his commitment to his family. Christian Holub, EW.com, 9 May 2022

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

Word History

Etymology

Noun

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

First Known Use

Noun

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

Adjective

1924, in the meaning defined above

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

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Dictionary Entries Near genius

Cite this Entry

“Genius.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/genius. Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

genius

noun
ge·​nius ˈjēn-yəs How to pronounce genius (audio)
ˈjē-nē-əs
plural geniuses or genii -ē-ˌī How to pronounce genius (audio)
-nē-ˌī
1
plural genii : an accompanying spirit of a person or place
2
: a strong leaning or inclination
a genius for getting into trouble
3
: a peculiar, distinctive, or identifying character
the genius of a nation
4
plural usually geniuses
a
: great natural ability
b
: extraordinary intelligence
c
: a very gifted person
Etymology

Noun

from Latin genius "special guardian spirit," from gignere "to father, beget" — related to engine, gin entry 1, ingenious

Word Origin
The ancient Romans believed in special beings or spirits that were not gods or humans but something in between. They believed that from birth each person had one of these spirits to act as a protector. The Latin name for this spirit was genius, which came from gignere, meaning "to be the father of, beget." Part of such a genius's role was to protect a person's moral character. From this idea in the 16th century came the sense of genius meaning "an identifying character." This led to the sense of "a marked aptitude." In time genius came to mean "very great intellectual power".

Medical Definition

genius

noun
plural geniuses or genii -nē-ˌī How to pronounce genius (audio)
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

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