in·​tel·​li·​gence | \in-ˈte-lə-jən(t)s \

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

2a : information, news

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

This summer, the special counsel investigation disclosed that foreign actors had targeted Georgia’s election infrastructure as part of an indictment of Russian military intelligence officials. Makena Kelly, The Verge, "Real security flaws became a sketchy hacking investigation in Georgia," 5 Nov. 2018 The Trump administration has been roiled by the FBI Special Counsel investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, and intelligence officials have warned about the danger of Russian meddling in the midterms. Fox News, "Pence accuses Beijing of meddling in US elections: ‘China wants a different American president’," 4 Oct. 2018 For most of the 60-year history of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), researchers have hunted for radio signals. Mike Wall,, "Student Project Scans Sky for Alien Laser Beams," 29 Sep. 2018 In the chaos that followed, the NKVD — Stalin’s intelligence agency and forerunner of the KGB — made a mistake that would doom all the Soviet agents who would infiltrate the Manhattan Project, the top-secret American effort to build an atomic bomb. Tim Folger, Discover Magazine, "Chance Encounters," 17 Aug. 2018 Since becoming one of Trump’s top intelligence officers, Coats has defended the president. Maureen Groppe, Indianapolis Star, "Unlike Trump, Dan Coats doesn't shy from calling out Russia," 13 July 2018 The background checks for joining the Americas Department were similar to those for future intelligence officials, García added. Nora Gámez Torres, miamiherald, "He now hunts Cuban human-rights abusers in the U.S. Was he once an offender himself?," 12 July 2018 To them, humans, equipped with intelligence, technology and an ever-increasing population, are the ultra-predators at the top of every food chain. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian, "How Humans Created the Ultimate Superpests," 9 July 2018 The Washington Post on Saturday cited unnamed US intelligence officials as concluding that North Korea does not intend to fully surrender its nuclear stockpile. Matthew Pennington And Lolita C. Baldor, The Christian Science Monitor, "US wants North Korea denuclearized in a year, but concerns remain," 2 July 2018

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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Last Updated

8 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for intelligence

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

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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 \

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 \

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 \ adjective
intelligently adverb

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