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This article is about people with exceptional mental abilities. For the cartoon, see Genius (cartoon).

The term genius is originally a Latin term from Roman culture meaning the guiding or "tutelary" spirit of a person or indeed of an entire gens, or the genius loci the genius of a place or spirit of the specific locale. In contrast, the internal driving force within all living things is the animus. A specific spirit, or daemon, may inhabit an image or icon, giving it supernatural powers.

A comparable term from Arabic lore is a Djinn, often Anglicized as "Genie".

In modern usage, a genius is a person imbued with distinguished mental prowess. This can manifest either as a foremost intellect, or as an outstanding creative talent. The term also applies to one who is a polymath, or someone skilled in many mental areas. The term does specifically apply to mental rather than athletic skills, although it is also used to denote the possession of a superior talent in any field; e.g., one may be said to have a genius for golf or for diplomacy.



Geniuses come gifted with phenomenal brilliance, and are often as insensitive to the limitations of mediocrity as they may be very sensitive emotionally themselves, sometimes both. Artistic genius may show itself in early childhood (prodigy) or later in life; either way, geniuses eventually differentiate themselves from the rest through great originality. Intellectual geniuses usually have crisp, clear-eyed visions of given situations, in which interpretation is unnecessary�the facts just hit them, and they build or act on the basis of those facts, usually with tremendous energy. Here too, accomplished geniuses in intellectual fields start out in many cases as prodigies, gifted with superior memory, pattern recognition or just understanding.

The term prodigy simply denotes the presence of exceptional talent or genius in early childhood. The term prodigy and child prodigy are synonymous, the latter being a redundancy.

In philosophy

In the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer, a genius is a person in whom intellect predominates over will much more than for the average person. In Schopenhauer's aesthetics, this predominance of intellect over will allows the genius to create artistic or academic works that are objects of pure, disinterested contemplation, the chief criterion of the aesthetic experience for Schopenhauer. Their remoteness from mundane concerns means that Schopenhauer's geniuses often display maladaptive traits in more mundane concerns; in Schopenhauer's words, they fall into the mire while gazing at the stars.

Some commonly termed geniuses

Some of the names often used synonymously with the word genius are

See also:


  • Harold Bloom, Genius: A Mosaic of One Hundred Exemplary Creative Minds, Warner Books
  • James Gleick, Genius : The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, Vintage
  • Clifford A. Pickover, Strange Brains and Genius, Quill

Last updated: 01-28-2005 02:35:53
Last updated: 02-04-2005 15:05:16