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

Her staff provides support to individuals of all ages who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injury and autism spectrum disorders. Michael L. Jackson, Indianapolis Star, "Top Workplaces 2018: Insights Consulting," 10 June 2018 In Agnesi’s day, it was thought that intellectual pursuits could be a form of devotion to God. Evelyn Lamb, Smithsonian, "The 18th-Century Lady Mathematician Who Loved Calculus and God," 16 May 2018 On April 15, a new moon in Aries connects your emotions to your intellectual pursuits. Aliza Kelly Faragher, Allure, "What April's Leo Horoscope Means for You," 29 Mar. 2018 In this view, the biggest threat to America and to the world may be a simple lack of intellectual humility. Robert Wright, WIRED, "Sam Harris and the Myth of Perfectly Rational Thought," 17 May 2018 On that score, a little intellectual humility is called for. David Roberts, Vox, "California will require solar panels on all new homes. That’s not necessarily a good thing.," 15 May 2018 Kids who can handle the intellectual challenge, and who don’t disrupt the class. Newsweek, "Analysis," 14 Mar. 2018 That means people with intellectual challenges who have been on Medicaid for decades could suddenly lose health care benefits. Julia O'donoghue,, "Louisiana 2018 special session: Winners and losers," 6 Mar. 2018 Many find Brexit a fascinating intellectual challenge, whatever their views of its wisdom. The Economist, "No, ministerPower in Whitehall is draining from the Brexit department," 18 Jan. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Other ballparklike options include the first-rate fish and chips, dusted with malt-vinegar powder and served with sauce gribiche (tartar sauce for intellectuals). Phil Vettel,, "Review: Will Wentworth's cooking at Mordecai earn him another Michelin star?," 8 June 2018 At parties, the New York intellectuals relished trading barbs and jabs. Anna Diamond, Smithsonian, "Writing in the Public Eye, These Women Brought the 20th Century Into Focus," 4 Apr. 2018 His single-mindedness marked his friendships with the leading artists and intellectuals in his milieu, including Picasso. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, "Giacometti’s Skinny Sublimity," 6 June 2018 The coalition is made up of leftist intellectuals but also far-right evangelicals and old-time members of the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party. Kate Linthicum,, "Five challenges that lie ahead for Mexico's next president," 2 July 2018 An accomplished poet and artist, Liu Xia joins several other fellow friends and Chinese intellectuals in exile in Berlin. Suyin Haynes / Taipei, Time, "One Year on From His Death, Taiwan Remembers Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo," 13 July 2018 But in those first months of protest, university students, factory workers and government employees joined intellectuals and teachers to try to fulfill the dream of making France a more egalitarian place. New York Times, "Printing a Revolution: The Posters of Paris ’68," 4 May 2018 Munk also created the Munk School of Global Affairs at University of Toronto and founded the Munk debates, which brings the world’s top intellectuals to Toronto for debates. Washington Post, "Barrick Gold founder Peter Munk dies in Toronto at age 90," 28 Mar. 2018 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

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

6 Nov 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

What made you want to look up intellectual? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


something that serves to warn or remind

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