adjective in·tel·li·gent \ in-ˈte-lə-jənt \
Updated on: 8 Feb 2018

Definition of intelligent

1 a : having or indicating a high or satisfactory degree of intelligence and mental capacity
b : revealing or reflecting good judgment or sound thought : skillful
2 a : possessing intelligence
b : guided or directed by intellect : rational
3 a : guided or controlled by a computer; especially : smart 7c — compare dumb 7
b : able to produce printed material from digital signals
  • an intelligent copier


play \in-ˌte-lə-ˈjen(t)-shəl\ adjective


play \in-ˈte-lə-jənt-lē\ adverb

Examples of intelligent in a Sentence

  1. She asked some intelligent questions.

  2. He's a hard worker but he's not very intelligent.

Recent Examples of intelligent from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'intelligent.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Origin and Etymology of intelligent

Latin intelligent-, intelligens, present participle of intelligere, intellegere to understand, from inter- + legere to gather, select — more at legend

intelligent Synonyms

alert, brainy, bright, brilliant, clever, exceptional, fast, hyperintelligent, keen, nimble, quick, quick-witted, sharp, sharp-witted, smart, supersmart, ultrasmart
airheaded, birdbrained, boneheaded, brain-dead, brainless, bubbleheaded, chuckleheaded, dense, dim, dim-witted, doltish, dopey (also dopy), dorky [slang], dull, dumb, dunderheaded, empty-headed, fatuous, gormless [chiefly British], half-witted, knuckleheaded, lamebrain (or lamebrained), lunkheaded, mindless, obtuse, opaque, pinheaded, senseless, simple, slow, slow-witted, soft, softheaded, stupid, thick, thickheaded, thick-witted, unbrilliant, unintelligent, unsmart, vacuous, weak-minded, witless
Related Words
apt, ingenious, resourceful; acute, astute, discerning, heady, insightful, knowing, perceptive, percipient, perspicacious, sagacious, sapient, savvy, wise; cerebral, erudite, genial, highbrow, knowledgeable, learned, literate, scholarly, well-read; educated, informed, schooled, skilled, trained; creative, inventive, judicious, prudent, sage, sane, sapient, sensible, sound, wise; crafty, cunning, foxy, shrewd, wily; logical, rational, reasonable
Near Antonyms
feebleminded, simpleminded; boobish, foolish, half-baked, idiotic (also idiotical), imbecile (or imbecilic), moronic, silly; ignorant, illiterate, lowbrow, nonintellectual, unacademic, uneducated, uninformed, unintellectual, untaught, unthinking; absurd, asinine, balmy, cockeyed, crackpot, crazy, cuckoo, daffy, daft, dippy, dotty, featherheaded, fool, half-baked, harebrained, insane, kooky (also kookie), loony (also looney), lunatic, mad, nonsensical, nutty, preposterous, sappy, screwball, tomfool, unwise, wacky (also whacky), zany

Synonym Discussion of intelligent

intelligent, clever, alert, quick-witted mean mentally keen or quick. intelligent stresses success in coping with new situations and solving problems.
    • an intelligent person could assemble it fast
clever implies native ability or aptness and sometimes suggests a lack of more substantial qualities.
    • clever with words
alert stresses quickness in perceiving and understanding.
    • alert to new technology
quick-witted implies promptness in finding answers in debate or in devising expedients in moments of danger or challenge.
    • no match for his quick-witted opponent

INTELLIGENT Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of intelligent for English Language Learners

  • : having or showing the ability to easily learn or understand things or to deal with new or difficult situations : having or showing a lot of intelligence

  • : able to learn and understand things

  • : having an ability to deal with problems or situations that resembles or suggests the ability of an intelligent person

INTELLIGENT Defined for Kids


adjective in·tel·li·gent \ in-ˈte-lə-jənt \

Definition of intelligent for Students

1 : having or showing serious thought and good judgment
  • an intelligent student
  • an intelligent decision
2 : able to learn and understand
  • Is there intelligent life on other planets?



Synonym Discussion of intelligent

intelligent, clever, and brilliant mean having a good amount of mental ability. intelligent is used of a person who can handle new situations and solve problems.
    • We need an intelligent person to run the company.
clever is used of a person who learns very quickly.
    • The clever youngster learned the trick in a few minutes.
brilliant is used of a person whose mental ability is much greater than normal.
    • A brilliant doctor discovered the cure for that disease.

Law Dictionary


adjective in·tel·li·gent

legal Definition of intelligent

: having or indicating a high or satisfactory degree of intelligence and mental capacity; especially : having or indicating an understanding of the nature and consequences of an act or decision
  • a knowing and intelligent waiver of counsel
— compare knowing
Note: Under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), a waiver of rights must be knowing and intelligent.



Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up intelligent? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!


easily led, taught, or controlled

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Namesakes Word Quiz

  • a-citrus-fruit-possibly-named-after-a-person
  • Which of the following is a fruit named after a Moroccan seaport?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!