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

Proceeds will benefit TNC Community, which provides support and care to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Dan Kelly, kansascity, "KC events June 14-20: Royals, ‘Peter Pan,’ Neal Brennan, Flag Day festivities," 12 June 2018 Camp Trusted Parents This summer marks the fifth one that Camp Trusted Parents, held on Queens University of Charlotte’s campus, has welcomed campers – from rising second graders to 21-year-olds – with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Page Leggett, charlotteobserver, "Campers and counselors benefit from this camp that welcomes those with disabilities," 7 June 2018 Bill Clinton’s New Democrats provided Tony Blair’s New Labour with the intellectual heft to make progressivism exciting again, after the dismal years of fights over nationalising the means of production and scrapping nuclear weapons. The Economist, "The special relationship once enriched Britain’s politics. No longer," 5 July 2018 The nimbleness of Weiss’ technique was matched by the intellectual heft of his ideas, a sure reflection of Griffin’s impact on his art. Howard Reich,, "Pianist Michael Weiss evokes memories of Johnny Griffin," 22 June 2018 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

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 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

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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Phrases Related to intellectual

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Last Updated

9 Oct 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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