in·tel·lec·tu·al | \ ˌin-tə-ˈlek-chə-wəl , -chəl , -shwəl , -chü(-ə)l \

Definition of intellectual 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : of or relating to the intellect or its use

b : developed or chiefly guided by the intellect rather than by emotion or experience : rational

c : requiring use of the intellect intellectual games

2a : given to study, reflection, and speculation

b : engaged in activity requiring the creative use of the intellect intellectual playwrights



Definition of intellectual (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : an intellectual person

2 intellectuals plural, archaic : intellectual powers

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Other words from intellectual


intellectuality \ˌin-tə-ˌlek-chə-ˈwa-lə-tē \ noun
intellectually \ˌin-tə-ˈlek-chə-wə-lē, -chə-lē, -shwə-lē, -chü(-ə)-lē \ adverb
intellectualness \ˌin-tə-ˈlek-chə-wəl-nəs, -chəl-, -shwəl-, -chü(-ə)l- \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for intellectual

Synonyms: Adjective

cerebral, eggheaded, geeky, highbrow, highbrowed, intellectualistic, nerdish, nerdy

Synonyms: Noun

egghead, geek, highbrow, longhair, nerd

Antonyms: Adjective

anti-intellectual, lowbrow, nonintellectual, philistine

Antonyms: Noun

anti-intellectual, lowbrow, philistine

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Examples of intellectual in a Sentence


the social and intellectual life of the campus as the daughter of college professors, she's used to being around intellectual people


He thinks that he's an intellectual, but he doesn't know what he's talking about. She's a hard worker but she's no great intellectual. a café where artists and intellectuals mingle
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

One of the most notable smear campaigns from the Democrats took place in the 1980s during Ronald Reagan's nomination of an originalist an intellectual to the Supreme Court. Fox News, "Sekulow: Kavanaugh will be a brilliant Supreme Court justice," 10 July 2018 Jesuits, members of the Society of Jesus founded by St. Ignatius Loyola in 1534, are today best known for founding and running universities, their intellectual rigor and range and their tolerance of other faiths. Elaine Ayala, San Antonio Express-News, "Pope documentary inspires S.A. believers," 26 May 2018 The effect of the injury upon the man seems to have been the destruction of the equilibrium between his intellectual faculties and the animal propensities. Daniel C. Schlenoff, Scientific American, "“Foul Treachery” of Trotsky and Lenin in 1918; Phineas Gage’s Brain in 1868," 13 July 2018 His nomination is not an interesting intellectual exercise to be debated amongst classmates and scholars in seminar. Sam Dangremond, Town & Country, "Yale Law Students and Alumni Denounce School's Support of Brett Kavanaugh," 11 July 2018 Gilead wants all of its citizens to be deeply religious, sure, but not at the expense of women’s intellectual subjugation and powerlessness. Emma Dibdin, Harper's BAZAAR, "The Handmaid's Tale Season 2 Finale Offers a Light in the Darkness," 11 July 2018 The Air Force is devoting more of its money and intellectual capital to space today than ever before. Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY, "Jim Mattis once wanted to rocket Marines into space, foreshadowing Trump's Space Force," 11 July 2018 What makes this all so galling, and perhaps not only to Michigan graduates like me, is that Trump has presided over a comprehensive assault on intellectual standards in public life. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "‘Populist’ Trump Turns Up Nose at Public University Graduates," 9 July 2018 The list was by and large the intellectual brainchild of the Federalist Society, the association of conservative lawyers. Nash Jenkins, Time, "Democrats Are Trying to Convince Collins and Murkowski That Supporting President Trump's Supreme Court Pick Will Doom Roe v. Wade," 5 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The Schlegel sisters, Margaret and Helen (Philippa Coulthard), are intellectuals and independent women who are curious about the world outside of their London home. Matthew Gilbert,, "A welcome return to ‘Howards End’," 4 Apr. 2018 Along the way, in the ’60s, Girard was the key figure in organizing a conference at Johns Hopkins University that brought to America the most prominent French intellectuals of the day, notably Jacques Derrida, the godfather of deconstruction. Frank Wilson,, "'Evolution of Desire': René Girard, a man in full," 6 July 2018 Indeed, to this day even anti-Trump conservative intellectuals remain furious at the Obama administration for describing their methods as hostage-taking. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Why Trump Is Using Hostage Tactics on Family Separation," 18 June 2018 According to these fragile pseudo-intellectuals, the straight black male is being attacked through an organized effort of the white media, the gay agenda and the black feminist Illuminati. Michael Harriot, The Root, "A Sincere Apology to the Strong Black Men Being Attacked By #TheRootArticles," 14 May 2018 The English have, thus, had their revenge on those contemptuous intellectuals, but the hostility has harmed the country. The Economist, "English or British? Football highlights an enduring identity crisis," 12 July 2018 Powell wrote, echoing libertarian intellectuals such as Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman who spent the mid-twentieth century defining the defense of capitalism as the defense of freedom. Jedediah Purdy, The New Republic, "The Remaking of Class," 27 June 2018 Yet by coincidence, not one but two new music dramas about major 20th-century thinkers — two German-Jewish intellectuals who fled the Nazis — have their premieres in Germany this season. New York Times, "Hannah Arendt and Walter Benjamin Don’t Talk. They Sing.," 24 June 2018 Los Angeles, to be exact, which is the kind of city where East Coast intellectuals like Noah do not fit in easily., "The Affair Season 4, Episode 1 Recap: You're The Earthquake I've Been Waiting On," 18 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'intellectual.' 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 intellectual


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1599, in the meaning defined at sense 2

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Last Updated

11 Sep 2018

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The first known use of intellectual was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for intellectual



English Language Learners Definition of intellectual

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: of or relating to the ability to think in a logical way

: involving serious study and thought

of a person : smart and enjoying serious study and thought



English Language Learners Definition of intellectual (Entry 2 of 2)

: a smart person who enjoys serious study and thought : an intellectual person


in·tel·lec·tu·al | \ ˌin-tə-ˈlek-chə-wəl \

Kids Definition of intellectual

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : of or relating to thought or understanding intellectual development

2 : interested in serious study and thought an intellectual person

3 : requiring study and thought an intellectual challenge

Other words from intellectual

intellectually \-wə-lē \ adverb



Kids Definition of intellectual (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person who takes pleasure in serious study and thought

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Comments on intellectual

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the setting in which something occurs

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