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[in-tl-ek-choo-uh l] /ˌɪn tlˈɛk tʃu əl/
appealing to or engaging the intellect:
intellectual pursuits.
of or relating to the intellect or its use:
intellectual powers.
possessing or showing intellect or mental capacity, especially to a high degree:
an intellectual person.
guided or developed by or relying on the intellect rather than upon emotions or feelings; rational.
characterized by or suggesting a predominance of intellect:
an intellectual way of speaking.
a person of superior intellect.
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.
an extremely rational person; a person who relies on intellect rather than on emotions or feelings.
a person professionally engaged in mental labor, as a writer or teacher.
intellectuals, Archaic.
  1. the mental faculties.
  2. things pertaining to the intellect.
1350-1400; Middle English < Latin intellēctuālis, equivalent to intellēctu-, stem of intellēctus intellect + -ālis -al1
Related forms
intellectually, adverb
intellectualness, noun
half-intellectual, adjective
half-intellectually, adverb
hyperintellectual, adjective
hyperintellectually, adverb
hyperintellectualness, noun
nonintellectual, adjective, noun
nonintellectually, adverb
nonintellectualness, noun
overintellectual, adjective
overintellectually, adverb
overintellectualness, noun
preintellectual, adjective
preintellectually, adverb
quasi-intellectual, adjective
quasi-intellectually, adverb
semi-intellectual, adjective, noun
semi-intellectually, adverb
superintellectual, adjective, noun
superintellectually, adverb
unintellectual, adjective
unintellectually, adverb
Can be confused
intelligent, intelligible, intellectual (see synonym study at intelligent)
1, 2. mental. 3. See intelligent. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for intellectuals
  • He had never claimed to write for the intellectuals.
  • Evangelical intellectuals are trying to revitalize their tradition.
  • intellectuals and partisans may line up at the extremes, but ordinary people mix and match values from competing menus.
  • Distrust of authority and disdain for intellectuals is nothing new.
  • All of a sudden, artists are again plainly smarter in their bones than art intellectuals are in their brains.
  • Occidentalists extol soul or spirit but despise intellectuals and intellectual life.
  • intellectuals are interesting, since they tend to try to rise above this aspect of humanity.
  • Most intellectuals unfortunately live in isolated worlds and take anecdotes as truth.
  • Attacks on science and on intellectuals and experts more generally.
  • Major public intellectuals routinely take a shot at characterizing what made it so special, and it's a lively area of scholarship.
British Dictionary definitions for intellectuals


of or relating to the intellect, as opposed to the emotions
appealing to or characteristic of people with a developed intellect: intellectual 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 Forms
intellectuality, intellectualness, noun
intellectually, 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
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Word Origin and History for intellectuals



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
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intellectuals in Culture

intellectual definition

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

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