ge·​nius | \ ˈjēn-yəs How to pronounce genius (audio) , ˈjē-nē-əs \
plural geniuses or genii\ ˈjē-​nē-​ˌī How to pronounce genii (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 At the time, he was considered a retail rock star for heading Apple stores with genius bars and sales per square foot that rivaled fine jewelry stores. Maria Halkias, Dallas News, "J.C. Penney files for bankruptcy, a crushing one as it was making progress to fix itself," 15 May 2020 Those geniuses over at the Cynar factory knew to package it in a 1 liter bottle. Alex Delany, Bon Appétit, "Cynar Is an Amaro for All Seasons, Including this Hellish Spring," 15 May 2020 Faye Dunaway’s Diana Christensen, the movie’s evil-genius programmer, who blurs and then obliterates the line between news and entertainment, turns the money-losing news division into a profit center by adding sensationalist elements. Kyle Smith, National Review, "What Network Got Wrong," 5 May 2020 My all-time favorite jeans A genius pair of leggings Gym Shark leggings make your butt look amazing. Madeline Hirsch, Glamour, "JoJo Says These $50 Leggings Will Make Your Butt Look Amazing," 1 May 2020 Half the country called Lincoln a strategic genius for switching trains and saving his own life. Time, "The First Secret Plot to Kill Abraham Lincoln," 30 Apr. 2020 Despite the element of surprise, the Iberian tribes proved to be no match for Hannibal’s tactical genius. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Ancient Battlefield That Launched the Legend of Hannibal," 24 Apr. 2020 The gang met the young Def Jam founders Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons, both evil geniuses on the brink of reinventing the music industry, who advised them to kick Kate out of the band. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "The Beastie Boys Keep It On and On," 24 Apr. 2020 At the very back of the book, the genius ad man Rory Sutherland writes with a real-world shrewdness that rarely pops up in fancy magazines. Kyle Smith, National Review, "The (Other) Greatest Magazine in the English-Speaking World," 23 Apr. 2020

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

19 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Genius.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for genius


How to pronounce genius (audio)

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 genii (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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