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

1, 2. mental. 3. See intelligent. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for intellectual

Contemporary Examples of intellectual

Historical Examples of intellectual

British Dictionary definitions for intellectual



of or relating to the intellect, as opposed to the emotions
appealing to or characteristic of people with a developed intellectintellectual literature
expressing or enjoying mental activity


a person who enjoys mental activity and has highly developed tastes in art, literature, etc
a person who uses or works with his intellect
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.