from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun The ability to learn and reason; the capacity for knowledge and understanding.
  • noun A person's individual ability to think and reason.
  • noun A person of great intellectual ability.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun The understanding; the sum of all the cognitive faculties except sense, or except sense and imagination.
  • noun Mind collectively; current or collective intelligence: as, the intellect of the time.
  • noun plural Wits; senses; mind: as, disordered in his intellects.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Metaph.) The part or faculty of the human mind by which it knows, as distinguished from the power to feel and to will; the power to judge and comprehend; the thinking faculty; the understanding.
  • noun The capacity for higher forms of knowledge, as distinguished from the power to perceive objects in their relations; mental capacity.
  • noun A particular mind, especially a person of high intelligence.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun the faculty of thinking, judging, abstract reasoning, and conceptual understanding (uncountable)
  • noun the capacity of that faculty (in a particular person) (uncountable)
  • noun a person who has that faculty to a great degree

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun knowledge and intellectual ability
  • noun a person who uses the mind creatively
  • noun the capacity for rational thought or inference or discrimination


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, from Old French intellecte, from Latin intellēctus, perception, from past participle of intellegere, to perceive; see intelligent.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin intellēctus ("understanding, intellect"), perfect passive participle of intellegō ("understand; reason"), from inter ("between, among") + legō ("read"), with connotation of bind.


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  • The knowledge of first principles is attained by the _intuition of pure intellect_ (νοῦς) -- that is, "_intellect itself is the principle of science_" or, in other words, intellect is the _efficient, essential cause_ of the knowledge of first principles.

    Christianity and Greek Philosophy or, the relation between spontaneous and reflective thought in Greece and the positive teaching of Christ and His Apostles 1852

  • I'm very much the beneficiary of his deeply insightful, eloquently argued ideas; the privilege of sharpening my ideas on the whetstone of his intellect is a rare one, and I'm delighted to share that opportunity with Boing Boing's readers ...

    Boing Boing 2009

  • But some times, in moments of inspiration, the pressure of one's will relents, and the intellect is able to consider the object as it is in itself, independently of one's goals, desires, and interests.

    Pure Experience 2010

  • I agree that design can be inferred from adaptation and also agree with nullasalus that the intellect is a supreme adaptive tool.

    Adaptationism 2007

  • Besides, my intellect is actually my main defense.

    Think Progress » Zakaria: Rumsfeld ‘Seems In A Parallel Universe and Slightly Deranged’ 2006

  • The premier science in the study of the history of art is, and always has been, the science of vision, because "the distinction between what we really see and what we infer through the intellect is as old as human thought on perception."

    The Creation of Color in Eighteenth-Century Europe 2006

  • Each one can define it for himself; there it is, and I do not see why it is not as integral a part of the authors — an element in the estimate of their future position — as what we term their intellect, their knowledge, their skill, or their art.

    Washington Irving 2004

  • That statement, "he announced," is a formal tribute paid by what I call my intellect to what the vulgar call the probabilities.

    The Certain Hour James Branch Cabell 1918

  • That statement, "he announced," is a formal tribute paid by what I call my intellect to what the vulgar call the probabilities.

    The Certain Hour 1909

  • He too yields only to necessity, the attraction of pleasure, and the fear of suffering; and what we call our intellect has the same origin and mission as what in animals we choose to term instinct.

    The Life of the Bee Maurice Maeterlinck 1905


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  • Help. Would you say "active intellect"? If not, what would you say? I'm at a loss, probably because it's late. :-/

    May 29, 2009

  • "active intellect" sounds plausible, though I would hope most people's intellect would be active, to some degree at least (I know, I know, I'm living in a world of illusion).

    I hear this being said by a teacher about a pupil to indicate that the child asks question, is curious about things, and tries to figure things out in logical ways. Another possibility would be a "lively intellect".

    May 29, 2009