in·​tel·​lec·​tu·​al | \ ˌin-tə-ˈlek-chə-wəl How to pronounce intellectual (audio) , -chəl, -shwəl, -chü(-ə)l \

Definition of intellectual

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : of or relating to the intellect or its use
b : developed or chiefly guided by the intellect rather than by emotion or experience : rational
c : requiring use of the intellect intellectual games
2a : given to study, reflection, and speculation
b : engaged in activity requiring the creative use of the intellect intellectual playwrights



Definition of intellectual (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : an intellectual person
2 intellectuals plural, archaic : intellectual powers

Other Words from intellectual


intellectuality \ ˌin-​tə-​ˌlek-​chə-​ˈwa-​lə-​tē How to pronounce intellectual (audio) \ noun
intellectually \ ˌin-​tə-​ˈlek-​chə-​wə-​lē How to pronounce intellectual (audio) , -​chə-​lē , -​shwə-​lē , -​chü(-​ə)-​lē \ adverb
intellectualness \ ˌin-​tə-​ˈlek-​chə-​wəl-​nəs How to pronounce intellectual (audio) , -​chəl-​ , -​shwəl-​ , -​chü(-​ə)l-​ \ noun

Examples of intellectual in a Sentence

Adjective the social and intellectual life of the campus as the daughter of college professors, she's used to being around intellectual people Noun He thinks that he's an intellectual, but he doesn't know what he's talking about. She's a hard worker but she's no great intellectual. a café where artists and intellectuals mingle
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective As conservative politics in America gained steam in the 1980s, her voice came to be increasingly heeded by a select group of people in the elite circles of government, academia and intellectual journals. New York Times, 9 May 2022 Innovation is part of the country’s cultural and intellectual DNA. Anand Kumar, STAT, 9 May 2022 The intellectual movement emerged in the 1960s out of the pages of Commentary, a previously liberal magazine founded by the American Jewish Committee. Washington Post, 9 May 2022 Being an outsider must free one’s intellectual juices to be right rather than loyal. Write to Andy Kessler, WSJ, 8 May 2022 Their apartment, its walls lined with books and covered with movie posters, bespeaks a life happily devoted to artistic and intellectual pursuits. Justin Changfilm Critic, Los Angeles Times, 6 May 2022 Influential stories inspire intellectual engagement from the audience. Stephanie Judd, Forbes, 6 May 2022 The study examined 46 patients six to 10 months after they were hospitalized with the virus and showed a marked decrease in their intellectual capabilities. Chris Morris, Fortune, 4 May 2022 The group supports adults and youth with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Roxanne De La Rosa, The Arizona Republic, 1 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The most demanding part of Mann’s Princeton life, however, and that which forms the bulk of Corngold’s book, must have been his activism as a public intellectual. Washington Post, 18 Feb. 2022 The film’s drama involves her encounter with a middle-aged South Korean intellectual, Jin Lee (John Cho), who helps to awaken her nascent passion for architecture and to find a practical way of developing it. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, 7 Mar. 2022 There are forgivable intellectual and policy errors, and then there’s the self-delusion that has driven the West into its dependence on Vladimir Putin’s oil and gas. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, 12 Mar. 2022 Jack is everything Alan isn't: combat expert, casual intellectual, man of substance and advanced sleeper holds. Leah Greenblatt,, 18 Mar. 2022 Stockman, who is having a solo show in June at Almine Rech in London, is the house intellectual, bringing books and articles to the others’ attention. Dodie Kazanjian, Vogue, 12 Mar. 2022 The causes of widespread precarity go back decades (for example, see the national security intellectual Edward Luttwak's prescient 1994 essay). Samuel Goldman, The Week, 28 Jan. 2022 The ideas marketplace, Drezner explained, arose in the 1990s with the decline of the public intellectual and the rise of the thought leader. Timothy Noah, The New Republic, 28 Oct. 2021 Through this approach, Cale, the intellectual, Reed, the American upstart, and Nico, the exotic icy blonde boho hobo become celebrities as much as pioneers. Armond White, National Review, 15 Oct. 2021 See More

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

First Known Use of intellectual


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1599, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Buying Guide

Check out the best educational products selected by our Reviews team.

Learn More About intellectual

Time Traveler for intellectual

Time Traveler

The first known use of intellectual was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near intellectual



intellectual disability

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for intellectual

Last Updated

12 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Intellectual.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for intellectual


in·​tel·​lec·​tu·​al | \ ˌin-tə-ˈlek-chə-wəl How to pronounce intellectual (audio) \

Kids Definition of intellectual

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : of or relating to thought or understanding intellectual development
2 : interested in serious study and thought an intellectual person
3 : requiring study and thought an intellectual challenge

Other Words from intellectual

intellectually \ -​wə-​lē \ adverb



Kids Definition of intellectual (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person who takes pleasure in serious study and thought

More from Merriam-Webster on intellectual

Nglish: Translation of intellectual for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of intellectual for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Eponyms: Words Named After People

How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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