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

Keep scrolling for more

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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web The details are contained in an intelligence bulletin dated Aug. 29. oregonlive, "FBI: Saudi government ‘almost certainly’ helps its citizens escape prosecution in US for serious crimes," 17 Jan. 2020 Click through the gallery to see key analysis from state intelligence. Michelle Iracheta, Houston Chronicle, "The top terrorist threats in the state of Texas, according to a recent unclassified report," 17 Jan. 2020 Amid debate in Washington about the intelligence used to justify the strike, Trump said that Suleimani had planned to bomb four U.S. embassies, but the Administration presented little evidence to support the claim. Robin Wright, The New Yorker, "Donald Trump’s Iran Problem," 12 Jan. 2020 But some of the US government's most sensitive and expensive intelligence-gathering satellites are designed to be mounted on their launch vehicles vertically. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "Rocket Report: SpaceX goes vertical, smallsat launch dates slip," 10 Jan. 2020 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that intelligence indicated Iran had shot down the plane — possibly by mistake. Los Angeles Times, "Two newlywed Iranian Canadian couples among those killed in crash," 9 Jan. 2020 Might need a few more intelligence people to protect very specific areas. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, "‘They like to send our kids to war,’ &c.," 9 Jan. 2020 Nothing, not even Salka’s emotional intelligence, could have made Schoenberg a composer of movie music. Ruth Franklin, Harper's magazine, "Salka the Salonnière," 6 Jan. 2020 The data was sourced from startup intelligence firm Tracxn, jobs site LinkedIn, and other news sources. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz India, "Looking for funding in India? VCs have a soft spot for the male, IIT-ian entrepreneur," 6 Jan. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about intelligence

Time Traveler for intelligence

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for intelligence

Last Updated

20 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Intelligence.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 26 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on intelligence

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


to express in a more acceptable way

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Intact Latin Quiz

  • roman tablet
  • What did focus mean in Latin?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!