in·​tel·​lec·​tu·​al | \ ˌin-tə-ˈlek-chə-wəl How to pronounce intellectual (audio) , -chəl, -shwəl, -chü(-ə)l \

Essential Meaning of intellectual

1 : of or relating to the ability to think in a logical way a child's intellectual development/growth intellectual challenges intellectual activities/exercises
2 : involving serious study and thought the social and intellectual life of the campus the library's commitment to intellectual freedom [=freedom that allows people to think about or study what they want]
3 of a person : smart and enjoying serious study and thought a rather intellectual poet

Full 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

Other Words from intellectual


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

Examples of intellectual in a Sentence

Adjective the social and intellectual life of the campus as the daughter of college professors, she's used to being around intellectual people Noun 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 Guests are asked to focus on the eight dimensions of wellness guidance from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: emotional, financial, social, spiritual, occupational, physical, intellectual and environmental. NBC News, 18 Nov. 2021 All three works tell the story of Wells’s ascent to the very top of the political and intellectual establishment in his time, and all three make a special survey of his love affair with the brilliant Amber Reeves. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 15 Nov. 2021 An immense object made from porcelain and ash from an apple tree, the Moon Jar required great physical—and intellectual—labor to complete. Elise Taylor, Vogue, 11 Nov. 2021 The event has brought together thousands of people in the community with or without physical or intellectual challenges to run or walk beside each other as equals. Emmett Hall,, 11 Nov. 2021 During his trial, an independent psychiatrist diagnosed him with mental and intellectual impairment. Washington Post, 8 Nov. 2021 The pitch strikes me as too obviously racist, too obviously anti-intellectual to sell in Virginia. Timothy Noah, The New Republic, 27 Oct. 2021 People who reported more frequent daydreaming during the day scored higher on creative and intellectual tests. Amy Blaschka, Forbes, 15 Oct. 2021 The once mighty Austro-Hungarian Empire has crumbled, the imperial dynasty has been replaced by a republic, and myriad artistic, political and intellectual movements are questioning the old certainties. Leo Barraclough, Variety, 12 Oct. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun But unlike Trump and Le Pen, Zemmour also presents himself as an intellectual. Washington Post, 19 Nov. 2021 Many intelligent, independent women, including that formidable intellectual Rebecca West and the Russian translator and spy Moura Budberg would eventually welcome his embraces. Washington Post, 3 Nov. 2021 His backing proved instrumental in the artist’s commercial success, including his later ascension to the rank of court painter to Henry VIII, the profligate intellectual who sat on the English throne from 1509 to 1547. Los Angeles Times, 26 Oct. 2021 The overall picture that emerges is of someone not only strikingly intelligent, but also an intellectual. Andrew Stuttaford, WSJ, 24 Oct. 2021 The Velvet Underground phases into hagiography, not a sharp way for an intellectual to shape a project. Armond White, National Review, 15 Oct. 2021 His dad was many things to him other than an athlete: an amateur comedian, an intellectual, a cinephile. Connor Letourneau, San Francisco Chronicle, 9 Oct. 2021 This cipher—not designed by Holbein—combines the Greek initials of Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, the 17th-century French intellectual and astronomer. V.m. Braganza, Smithsonian Magazine, 20 Aug. 2021 Cornel West, the public intellectual and a professor of the practice of public philosophy at Harvard Divinity School, announced that he too had been denied tenure, and left his post for a tenured position at Union Theological Seminary. Graciela Mochkofsk, The New Yorker, 27 July 2021

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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Time Traveler for intellectual

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

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Dictionary Entries Near intellectual



intellectual disability

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Last Updated

20 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Intellectual.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.

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More Definitions for intellectual


in·​tel·​lec·​tu·​al | \ ˌin-tə-ˈlek-chə-wəl How to pronounce intellectual (audio) \

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

More from Merriam-Webster on intellectual

Nglish: Translation of intellectual for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of intellectual for Arabic Speakers


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