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 Horowitz also examined the FBI's relationship and communication with Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who was hired by a research firm working for Clinton's campaign. Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY, "Andrew McCabe, former FBI deputy director, won't face criminal charges," 15 Feb. 2020 The massive hack of credit bureau Equifax in 2017 was carried out by Chinese intelligence officers, the Justice Department revealed on Monday in an indictment of four of them. Adam Lashinsky, Fortune, "Amazon tries to hold Trump to account, but nothing will come of it," 11 Feb. 2020 Steven Kleinman, a military intelligence officer, one of the first to argue against coercive interrogation based on moral, legal and operational considerations. al, "Alabama researchers find torture in movies of all kinds -- even cartoons," 10 Feb. 2020 Steele is a former British intelligence officer hired by an opposition research firm working for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign to investigate Trump. Matt Zapotosky, Anchorage Daily News, "Barr acknowledges Justice Department has created ‘intake process’ to vet Giuliani’s information on Bidens," 10 Feb. 2020 China, in particular, has been a subject of concern as a number of former intelligence officers have been recruited by Beijing to pass along government secrets. Caitlin Yilek, Washington Examiner, "US counterintelligence chief: 'We had a horrible year'," 4 Feb. 2020 Such cases involving foreign intelligence officers are rare, Lelling says. Jeffrey Mervis, Science | AAAS, "U.S. prosecutor leading China probe explains effort that led to charges against Harvard chemist," 3 Feb. 2020 The intelligence officers apologised again but remained insistent. The Economist, "Trapped in Iran," 28 Jan. 2020 Jones, a former Air Force intelligence officer, faces four primary opponents in Texas’ 23rd Congressional District, the expansive district stretching from San Antonio to the edge of El Paso. Jasper Scherer, Houston Chronicle, "DCCC adds Wendy Davis, Gina Ortiz Jones to 'Red to Blue' program," 27 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

17 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Intelligence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

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!