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From Old French intelligence, from Latin intelligentia. Doublet of intelligentsia.


  • IPA(key): /ɪnˈtɛl.ɪ.d͡ʒəns/
  • (file)


intelligence (countable and uncountable, plural intelligences)

  1. (chiefly uncountable) Capacity of mind, especially to understand principles, truths, facts or meanings, acquire knowledge, and apply it to practice; the ability to comprehend and learn.
    • 1912, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes, Chapter 5
      Not so, however, with Tarzan, the man-child. His life amidst the dangers of the jungle had taught him to meet emergencies with self-confidence, and his higher intelligence resulted in a quickness of mental action far beyond the powers of the apes.
    • 2013 July 19, Ian Sample, “Irregular bedtimes may affect children's brains”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 189, number 6, page 34:
      Irregular bedtimes may disrupt healthy brain development in young children, according to a study of intelligence and sleeping habits.  ¶ Going to bed at a different time each night affected girls more than boys, but both fared worse on mental tasks than children who had a set bedtime, researchers found.
  2. (countable) An entity that has such capacities.
    • 1849, [Alfred, Lord Tennyson], In Memoriam, London: Edward Moxon, [], published 1850, OCLC 3968433, (please specify |part=prologue or epilogue, or |canto=I to CXXIX):
      The great Intelligences fair / That range above our mortal state, / In circle round the blessed gate, / Received and gave him welcome there.
    • 1898, H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds, London: William Heinemann, page 102:
      The living intelligence, the Martian within the hood, was slain and splashed to the four winds of heaven, and the thing was now but a mere intricate device of metal whirling to destruction.
    • 1936, Rollo Ahmed, The Black Art, London: Long, page 275:
      But there are latent powers within man alone that are not yet fully understood and [...] we cannot definitely state what is, and what is not, due to the interference or influence of discarnate intelligences.
  3. (chiefly uncountable) Information, usually secret, about the enemy or about hostile activities.
  4. (countable) A political or military department, agency or unit designed to gather information, usually secret, about the enemy or about hostile activities.
  5. (dated) Acquaintance; intercourse; familiarity.


Derived terms[edit]




Borrowed from Latin intelligentia (the act of choosing between, intelligence), from intellegō (understand), from inter (between) + legō (choose, pick out, read).


  • IPA(key): /ɛ̃.tɛ.li.ʒɑ̃s/, /ɛ̃ʒɑ̃s/
  • (file)


intelligence f (plural intelligences)

  1. intelligence; cleverness
  2. comprehension

Further reading[edit]



Borrowed from English intelligence.


intelligence f (invariable)

  1. A political or military department, agency or unit designed to gather information.

Middle French[edit]


intelligence f (plural intelligences)

  1. intelligence
  2. comprehension
    • 1595, Michel de Montaigne, Essais, book II, chapter 10:
      Je souhaiterois avoir plus parfaicte comprehension des choses, mais je ne la veux pas achepter si cher qu’elle couste.
      I would like to have a more perfect knowledge of everything, but I don't want to buy it for how much it costs

Old French[edit]


intelligence f (oblique plural intelligences, nominative singular intelligence, nominative plural intelligences)

  1. comprehension
  2. meaning
  3. ability to comprehend


  • English: intelligence
  • French: intelligence