in·​tel·​li·​gence | \ in-ˈte-lə-jən(t)s How to pronounce intelligence (audio) \

Definition of intelligence

1a(1) : the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations : reason also : the skilled use of reason
(2) : the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one's environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (such as tests)
c : mental acuteness : shrewdness
b Christian Science : the basic eternal quality of divine Mind
b : information concerning an enemy or possible enemy or an area also : an agency engaged in obtaining such information
3 : the act of understanding : comprehension
4 : the ability to perform computer functions
5a : intelligent minds or mind cosmic intelligence
b : an intelligent entity especially : angel

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Examples of intelligence in a Sentence

She impressed us with her superior intelligence. a person of average intelligence gathering intelligence about a neighboring country's activities
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Recent Examples on the Web Cotton praised the Trump administration's decision Thursday, but some Republican elder statesmen criticized the move, including Gen. Michael Hayden, a senior intelligence official in the George W. Bush administration. Author: John Hudson, Paul Sonne, Anchorage Daily News, "Trump administration to withdraw from Open Skies treaty in further erosion of arms-control pacts with Russia," 21 May 2020 Nevertheless, State Department and U.S. intelligence officials say, Pompeo and White House officials have pressed for evidence that Iran’s military activities pose a growing threat to U.S. allies and shipping in the Persian Gulf region. John Walcott, Time, "Trump's Firing of State Department Inspector General Is Just the Latest In a Rolling Purge," 19 May 2020 Israel was behind a cyberattack on May 9 that disrupted operations at a major port in Iran, according to high-ranking intelligence officials and experts in the Middle East who are kept informed of covert Israeli actions in the region. New York Times, "Israel Hack of Iran Port Is Latest Salvo in Exchange of Cyberattacks," 19 May 2020 Critics cast him as a partisan hack unqualified to oversee the sprawling intelligence community. Todd J. Gillman, Dallas News, "Trump’s pick for intel chief, Texan John Ratcliffe, assures Senate he’d deliver only ‘unvarnished truth’," 5 May 2020 When the president's intelligence officials couldn't find evidence that the protest was stirred by outside agitators, Nixon was frustrated. NBC News, "Kent State massacre: The shootings on a college campus 50 years ago changed the country," 3 May 2020 The intelligence official was not authorized to publicly discuss the issue and spoke only on condition of anonymity. Zeke Miller, Houston Chronicle, "Trump speculates that China released virus in lab 'mistake'," 1 May 2020 But intelligence officials say the benefits outweigh the costs. Washington Post, "The Technology 202: Coronavirus could change how social networks approach public health," 19 Apr. 2020 American intelligence officials are investigating multiple theories concerning the origin of the coronavirus pandemic, which was first detected in what city? 10. CNN, "CNN 10 - April 17, 2020," 16 Apr. 2020

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

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for intelligence

Middle English, from Middle French, from Latin intelligentia, from intelligent-, intelligens intelligent

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Time Traveler for intelligence

Time Traveler

The first known use of intelligence was in the 14th century

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Statistics for intelligence

Last Updated

25 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Intelligence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for intelligence


How to pronounce intelligence (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of intelligence

: the ability to learn or understand things or to deal with new or difficult situations
: secret information that a government collects about an enemy or possible enemy also : a government organization that collects such information


in·​tel·​li·​gence | \ in-ˈte-lə-jəns How to pronounce intelligence (audio) \

Kids Definition of intelligence

1 : the ability to learn and understand The test measures intelligence.
2 : secret information collected about an enemy or a possible enemy


in·​tel·​li·​gence | \ in-ˈtel-ə-jən(t)s How to pronounce intelligence (audio) \

Medical Definition of intelligence

1a : the ability to learn or understand or to deal with new or trying situations
b : the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one's environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (as tests)
2 : mental acuteness

Other Words from intelligence

intelligent \ in-​ˈtel-​ə-​jənt How to pronounce intelligent (audio) \ adjective
intelligently adverb

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