[ tal-uhnt ]
/ ˈtæl ənt /
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Origin of talent

First recorded before 900; Middle English, Old English talente, from Latin talenta, plural of talentum, from Greek tálanton “balance, weight, monetary unit”

synonym study for talent

1. See ability.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does talent mean?

Talent is an exceptional natural ability, especially in a particular activity, such as music.

Talent is often thought of as the kind of ability that comes without training—something that you’re born with. It is often contrasted with skill, which is an ability acquired and developed through practice. It can also be used to refer to people who are talented (which is the adjective form of talent).

Example: She was a prodigy whose musical talent was obvious from a young age—she started playing the piano at the age of 2.

Where does talent come from?

Talent goes back to at least the 900s. It derives from the Greek tálanton, which referred to a unit of money or weight. At some point in its history, the meaning of talent evolved from “money” to “ability.” This change is thought to have been strongly influenced by a passage from the New Testament of the Bible often called the “Parable of the Talents.” In this story from the Gospel of Matthew, a rich guy entrusts his servants with his talents (money) while he’s away. Two of the servants invest the money and make him a profit, but a third servant just buries it and returns it when the boss gets back. The talents in the story are widely interpreted as representing natural abilities, with the moral being that you should use your abilities for good instead of hiding them.

Relatedly, talent is often described as God-given, which is another way of saying that talent is something that someone’s born with. A lot of people see this as being different from skill, which you have to work for. For example, a person might be said to have musical talent because they find it easy to learn the skill of playing an instrument. However, the two words are often used in much the same way, especially since any talent can be improved through practice.

Talent is often used in phrases that specify the type of talent, as in athletic talent, musical talent, and a talent for cooking. Talent can be used with an article (a, an, or the), as in a talent for fixing things, or without one, as in You’ve got talent.

Talent is also used to refer to a talented person, as in He’s a major talent in the field, or to refer to a group of talented people collectively, as in This event features international talent. More specifically, it can refer to actors or the people who appear on screen in some kind of production, as in We can’t start filming until the talent arrives.

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What are some words that often get used in discussing talent?

How is talent used in real life?

Talent is often used in discussion of abilities that people consider to occur naturally in a person. For this reason, talent is often contrasted with skill.



Try using talent!

True or false? 

Talent and skill are opposites and they are never used in the same way.

How to use talent in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for talent

/ (ˈtælənt) /

innate ability, aptitude, or faculty, esp when unspecified; above average abilitya talent for cooking; a child with talent
a person or persons possessing such ability
any of various ancient units of weight and money
informal members of the opposite sex collectively, esp those living in a particular placethe local talent
an obsolete word for inclination

Derived forms of talent

talented, adjective

Word Origin for talent

Old English talente, from Latin talenta, pl of talentum sum of money, from Greek talanton unit of money or weight; in Medieval Latin the sense was extended to ability through the influence of the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14–30)
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