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

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
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Her 25-year-old son, Yehoshua, has Trisomy 13, also known as Patau syndrome, a genetic disorder that can cause seizures, decreased muscle tone, intellectual disabilities and skeletal abnormalities, among other conditions. Hartford Courant, 16 May 2022 The center uses its kitchen to provide culinary workforce training for youth and adults with intellectual disabilities and previously incarcerated people. Tom Daykin, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 11 May 2022 But Geiger thought of her chronically homeless clients — who struggle with substance-use disorders, intellectual disabilities, physical impairments, or sometimes all three. Washington Post, 7 May 2022 In his search, Stanislavski introduced the idea that great acting is not a matter of personal charisma or divine inspiration but of intellectual rigor and critical intelligence. Evan Kindley, The New Republic, 31 Jan. 2022 Re-contextualizing requires an intellectual rigor not present here. Nina Metz,, 18 Nov. 2021 Needless to say, other cultures and civilizations are capable of great intellectual rigor. Rich Lowry, National Review, 26 Oct. 2021 There is an endgame here not addressed by Sekula or Adamson: a future, now in the near view, in which intellectual work is taken over by machines. Susan Tallman, The New York Review of Books, 19 Aug. 2021 As conservative politics in America gained steam in the 1980s, her voice came to be increasingly heeded by a select group of people in the elite circles of government, academia and intellectual journals. New York Times, 9 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The most demanding part of Mann’s Princeton life, however, and that which forms the bulk of Corngold’s book, must have been his activism as a public intellectual. Washington Post, 18 Feb. 2022 The film’s drama involves her encounter with a middle-aged South Korean intellectual, Jin Lee (John Cho), who helps to awaken her nascent passion for architecture and to find a practical way of developing it. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 7 Mar. 2022 There are forgivable intellectual and policy errors, and then there’s the self-delusion that has driven the West into its dependence on Vladimir Putin’s oil and gas. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, 12 Mar. 2022 Jack is everything Alan isn't: combat expert, casual intellectual, man of substance and advanced sleeper holds. Leah Greenblatt,, 18 Mar. 2022 Stockman, who is having a solo show in June at Almine Rech in London, is the house intellectual, bringing books and articles to the others’ attention. Dodie Kazanjian, Vogue, 12 Mar. 2022 The causes of widespread precarity go back decades (for example, see the national security intellectual Edward Luttwak's prescient 1994 essay). Samuel Goldman, The Week, 28 Jan. 2022 The ideas marketplace, Drezner explained, arose in the 1990s with the decline of the public intellectual and the rise of the thought leader. Timothy Noah, The New Republic, 28 Oct. 2021 Through this approach, Cale, the intellectual, Reed, the American upstart, and Nico, the exotic icy blonde boho hobo become celebrities as much as pioneers. Armond White, National Review, 15 Oct. 2021 See More

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.

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

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intellectual disability

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Last Updated

24 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Intellectual.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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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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