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

Chelsea Manning, the government whistleblower and former intelligence analyst, is challenging two-term incumbent Sen. Ben Cardin in Maryland. Natasha Bach, Fortune, "These Are the Crucial Primary Races You Should Be Watching Today," 26 June 2018 Chandler, a transgender woman, said a vow to serve her country after experiencing the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York City led her to work as an intelligence analyst until last year. Maegan Vazquez, CNN, "A record number of LGBTQ candidates are running for office to run for office. Here's why.," 15 June 2018 Wolfe, 57, is a former Army intelligence analyst who worked for the Senate committee for more than 30 years, the Times reported. Carolyn Mcatee Cerbin, USA TODAY, "Feds seize New York Times reporter's phone, email records in leak probe," 7 June 2018 Financial transactions have been one of the trickiest parts of intelligence operations because electronic payment networks and checks are generally off-limits to undercover spies., "How Russian spies hid behind bitcoin in hacking campaign," 14 July 2018 But geneticists have had trouble identifying more than a handful of genes associated with intelligence. Ann Gibbons, Science | AAAS, "Hundreds of new genes may underlie intelligence—but also autism and depression," 25 June 2018 Strength and intelligence can be weapons, so do not wield them against the weak. Regan Alexander,, "Chris Pratt Says 'God Is Real' & Teaches Fans How to 'Poop' in Public at MTV Movie Awards," 18 June 2018 Mueller's office charged that Guccifer 2.0 was a fictitious identity for a group of hackers who worked for the GRU, a Russian intelligence service. Brad Heath, USA TODAY, "Mueller: Congressional candidate sought stolen emails from Russian spies in 2016," 13 July 2018 Besides Kukoo, there is Anjali Mathur (Radhika Apte), an agent from RAW, India’s intelligence service. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Sacred Games Reinvents the Police Procedural," 12 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

10 Nov 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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Comments on intelligence

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to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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