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
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

The tensions also led to a shuffle of Germany’s intelligence service last autumn. Andrea Thomas, WSJ, "German Man Drives Car Into Crowd in Apparent Xenophobic Attack," 1 Jan. 2019 Following the WikiLeaks scandal of 2016, the U.S. intelligence community started looking into Russia’s role in influencing the outcome of the election. Emily Bloch, Teen Vogue, "The Russia Investigation Is Almost Over. Here's What You Need to Know," 8 Dec. 2018 The reported cited multiple unnamed sources from US intelligence services as well as former employees from both companies. Makena Kelly, The Verge, "Another US intel chief casts doubt on Chinese spy chip story," 19 Oct. 2018 Previous Facebook investigations have uncovered influence campaigns in the U.S. that are likely sponsored by Russian military intelligence services; Iran is a new threat. Theodore Schleifer, Recode, "Iran — not just Russia — is trying to influence through Facebook," 22 Aug. 2018 Meng happens to be the daughter of Huawei’s founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei, a former People’s Liberation Army engineer whose connection to the Chinese Communist Party has contributed to the suspicions of US intelligence agencies. Shannon Liao, The Verge, "Canada arrests top Huawei executive on suspicion of violating Iran sanctions," 5 Dec. 2018 Are Sapiosexual people attracted to other aspects of a person besides intelligence? Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "What is Sapiosexuality?," 12 Oct. 2018 The head of Russia’s foreign intelligence agency lashed out at the U.S. and NATO allies on Wednesday, accusing the West of provoking a new Cold War amid escalating tensions over the poisoning of an ex-spy and his daughter in England. Travis Fedschun, Fox News, "Russian spy chief accuses US and UK of staging nerve attack, predicts return to ‘dark times of Cold War’," 2 Oct. 2018 Relations hit a post-Cold War low when U.S. intelligence agencies accused Putin of directing a campaign of cybercrime and propaganda to influence the 2016 presidential election. Gregory Korte, USA TODAY, "Trump's chaotic NATO summit raises stakes for Putin talks in Helsinki," 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

6 Jan 2019

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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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tremendous in size, volume, or degree

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