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

Her staffers would run to Burke with intelligence on what Austin was doing. John Kass,, "Column: After indictment of Ald. Ed Burke, City Hall not surprised when feds raid offices of Ald. Carrie Austin," 20 June 2019 She was known for her intelligence and quick wit, and for her passion for needlecraft, art, gardening, her cat, books, and music., "Jean M. Crum," 20 June 2019 Turkish intelligence had referenced some 7 hours of recordings. Author: Jamey Keaten, Aya Batrawy, Anchorage Daily News, "U.N. inquiry into Khashoggi killing calls for greater scrutiny of Saudi prince and other officials," 19 June 2019 Even worse, hackers are updating their phishing tactics to target even more workers, said Amy Chang, the head of strategic intelligence and cybersecurity operations for JPMorgan Chase. Jonathan Vanian, Fortune, "Welcome to the Next Generation of Corporate Phishing Scams," 19 June 2019 Ravel, digital deception project director at MapLight and former chair of the Federal Election Commission, and Katie Joseff, research manager of the digital intelligence lab at the Institute for the Future., "Bay Area political events: Pride speak-out, Stonewall anniversary," 19 June 2019 Usually, Hot Takes are Stephen A. Smith-ian bleats that involve all the intelligence of a ham sandwich. Paul Daugherty,, "Doc's Morning Line: Cincinnati Reds rebuild not over but David Bell has players' attention," 19 June 2019 Sudanese intelligence chief Salah Gosh, former U.S. officials told me, had authority in 2005 over units carrying out massacres in Darfur, and could sometimes halt them at Washington’s request. Justin Lynch, The New Republic, "The West’s Complicity in Sudan’s Massacres," 18 June 2019 North Korea, by contrast, already has dozens, and appears to be adding to its arsenal at a rapid clip, according to American intelligence experts, despite Mr. Trump’s insistent wooing of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. David E. Sanger, New York Times, "Trump Careens Toward a Confrontation With Iran," 17 June 2019

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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Statistics for intelligence

Last Updated

23 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for intelligence

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

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More Definitions for intelligence



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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