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  1. appealing to or engaging the intellect: intellectual pursuits.
  2. of or relating to the intellect or its use: intellectual powers.
  3. possessing or showing intellect or mental capacity, especially to a high degree: an intellectual person.
  4. guided or developed by or relying on the intellect rather than upon emotions or feelings; rational.
  5. characterized by or suggesting a predominance of intellect: an intellectual way of speaking.
  1. a person of superior intellect.
  2. a person who places a high value on or pursues things of interest to the intellect or the more complex forms and fields of knowledge, as aesthetic or philosophical matters, especially on an abstract and general level.
  3. an extremely rational person; a person who relies on intellect rather than on emotions or feelings.
  4. a person professionally engaged in mental labor, as a writer or teacher.
  5. intellectuals, Archaic.
    1. the mental faculties.
    2. things pertaining to the intellect.

Origin of intellectual

1350–1400; Middle English < Latin intellēctuālis, equivalent to intellēctu-, stem of intellēctus intellect + -ālis -al1
Related formsin·tel·lec·tu·al·ly, adverbin·tel·lec·tu·al·ness, nounhalf-in·tel·lec·tu·al, adjectivehalf-in·tel·lec·tu·al·ly, adverbhy·per·in·tel·lec·tu·al, adjectivehy·per·in·tel·lec·tu·al·ly, adverbhy·per·in·tel·lec·tu·al·ness, nounnon·in·tel·lec·tu·al, adjective, nounnon·in·tel·lec·tu·al·ly, adverbnon·in·tel·lec·tu·al·ness, nouno·ver·in·tel·lec·tu·al, adjectiveo·ver·in·tel·lec·tu·al·ly, adverbo·ver·in·tel·lec·tu·al·ness, nounpre·in·tel·lec·tu·al, adjectivepre·in·tel·lec·tu·al·ly, adverbqua·si-in·tel·lec·tu·al, adjectivequa·si-in·tel·lec·tu·al·ly, adverbsem·i-in·tel·lec·tu·al, adjective, nounsem·i-in·tel·lec·tu·al·ly, adverbsu·per·in·tel·lec·tu·al, adjective, nounsu·per·in·tel·lec·tu·al·ly, adverbun·in·tel·lec·tu·al, adjectiveun·in·tel·lec·tu·al·ly, adverb
Can be confusedintelligent intelligible intellectual (see synonym study at intelligent)

Synonyms for intellectual

See more synonyms for on
1, 2. mental. 3. See intelligent. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for intellectual

Contemporary Examples of intellectual

Historical Examples of intellectual

British Dictionary definitions for intellectual


  1. of or relating to the intellect, as opposed to the emotions
  2. appealing to or characteristic of people with a developed intellectintellectual literature
  3. expressing or enjoying mental activity
  1. a person who enjoys mental activity and has highly developed tastes in art, literature, etc
  2. a person who uses or works with his intellect
  3. a highly intelligent person
Derived Formsintellectuality or intellectualness, nounintellectually, adverb
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for intellectual

late 14c., "grasped by the understanding" (rather than by the senses), from Old French intellectuel and directly from Latin intellectualis "relating to the understanding," from intellectus "discernment, understanding," from past participle stem of intelligere "to understand, discern" (see intelligence). Intellectual property attested from 1845. Other adjective formations included intellective (late 15c.), intellectile (1670s).


1590s, "mind, intellect," from intellectual (adj.); sense of "an intellectual person" is from 1650s. Related: Intellectuals.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

intellectual in Culture


A person who engages in academic study or critical evaluation of ideas and issues. (See intelligentsia.)

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.