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What is the English word to describe the following skill: "able to learn new things quickly"?

For example:

Billy is very _________, as he learns new skills more quickly than an average person.

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closed as off-topic by RegDwigнt Dec 9 '15 at 12:09

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"able to learn new things quickly" == "learns quickly" – BobStein-VisiBone Mar 7 '15 at 12:19
"Quick study" is probably the best short phrase for this. – Hot Licks Mar 7 '15 at 12:49
"fast learner" may help. – Zoe Lee May 20 '15 at 0:31

18 Answers 18

up vote 28 down vote accepted

Fast learner or quick learner

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+1 They're not the snappy single word that I suspect the OP wants, but they are IMHO the most accurate phrase. An other single word is a compromise IMHO. – CJM Apr 28 '11 at 10:39
"Quick study" would refer to a person who readily acquires both skills and knowledge, but with a clear inclusion of becoming knowledgeable as well as skillful. – H Stephen Straight Apr 7 '15 at 22:01

I would say clever, quick-witted or, informally, smart:

clever (adjective)
quick to understand, learn, and devise or apply ideas; intelligent.

quick-witted (adjective)
showing or characterized by an ability to think or respond quickly or effectively.

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Why informally? That's what smart means. – Kevin Mar 1 '12 at 22:03
@Kevin mostly because this meaning of smart is marked as informal in the New Oxford American Dictionary – F'x Mar 2 '12 at 9:04
I think only in certain contexts would those words be acceptable for "able to learn new things quickly". For example, someone that was quickly able to learn how to garden or take care of the elderly wouldn't usually be called "clever" but a "fast learner". – Chan-Ho Suh Aug 18 '12 at 23:17

here's some words that came to mind - sagacious,

Exhibiting or marked by keen intellectual discernment, especially of human motives and actions; having or proceeding from penetration into practical affairs in general; having keen practical sense; acute in discernment or penetration; discerning and judicious; shrewd: as, a sagacious mind.

there's astute,

Quick at seeing how to gain advantage, especially for oneself; shrewd; critically discerning.

and of course, polymathic

Pertaining to polymathy; acquainted with many branches of learning.

and autodidactic :)

Relating to or having the characteristics of an autodidact.

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Sponge - a person or thing that absorbs something freely: His mind is a sponge gathering historical data.

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Or, perhaps dependent on delivery and context, sponge could mean a complete absence of anything resembling a centre of thought, in reference to the animal! – Sam Apr 21 '15 at 16:39
@Sam, I have just the therapy for you. – BobStein-VisiBone Apr 21 '15 at 17:13

I have often heard sharp used in this context.

mentally acute; clever; astute

Synonym discussion:

intelligent, quick have varying implications. Sharp suggests an acute, sensitive, alert, penetrating quality: a sharp mind. Keen implies observant, incisive, and vigorous: a keen intellect. Intelligent means not only acute, alert, and active, but also able to reason and understand: an intelligent reader. Quick suggests lively and rapid comprehension, prompt response to instruction, and the like: quick at figures.

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I think idioms like 'quick study', 'quick on the uptake' or 'ready grasp' are more apt. haven't found any one word expression befitting.

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The idiom "quick on the uptake" would apply here.

Defintion: quick to understand or learn something.

Example: Just because I'm not quick on the uptake, it doesn't mean I'm stupid. Mary understands jokes before anyone else because she's so quick on the uptake.

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You can also say,

"He/she is very apt" which means able and also quick adaption.

For example, "He is very apt at his new job." New Job (Learning new things) based of SOME experience, school, education etc.

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+1: She is an apt pupil: this usage of apt literally means "quick to lean". This the correct answer IMHO. – Binary Worrier Apr 21 '15 at 13:42

This is only borderline English, I would say, since it's such an obscure word, but it's one of my favorites:

TACHYDIDACTIC - Being taught rapidly or teaching quickly

No one will know it, but sometimes that's the fun of a word.

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Goes well with "autodidactic polymath". – Hot Licks Mar 7 '15 at 12:51

I can't really think of a single word. I mean, "adaptable" is close, and most synonyms of "smart" could fit, but none have quite that specific meaning. Other related words are "polymath" and "autodidact" but again they don't have quite that meaning.

For short phrases there's "fast learner" and "quick study"

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Autodidact should be someone who learns by himself, regardless of the speed, no? – Alenanno Apr 28 '11 at 9:26
Yes, that's why I said not quite that meaning. Being able to pick things up on your own implies being able to learn easily, but it's not exact. Similarly, polymath means you've mastered multiple disciplines; again that implies being able to learn easily but it's not necessarily quickly. – jhocking Apr 28 '11 at 9:28
I didn't know polymath... – Alenanno Apr 28 '11 at 9:31

how about Aptitude

internet definition: readiness or quickness in learning;

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What is the adjective form of this word? I almost wrote "apt" but I'm not sure that's right. – jhocking Apr 28 '11 at 18:01
I believe "apt" would be correct. – Jerry Coffin Apr 28 '11 at 22:34
Yes, but you can't just call someone "apt". It has to attach to a role noun, as in, "She's an apt pupil." – SevenSidedDie Apr 28 '11 at 22:39

I've most often used the word "adept" (not adapt) in your situation, although the book definition doesn't fit precisely, common usage (at least around here) seems to fit what you're looking for.

1. very proficient in something requiring skill or manual dexterity
2. skillful; expert

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Receptive is the English term used to describe the ability of learning or apprehending new things quickly. http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/receptive

However, according to the Oxford dictionary receptive alludes to the willingness rather than the ability to accept new ideas. http://live.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/receptive?region=us

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I'm going to go for:

Assimilator : (noun)

someone (especially a child) who learns (as from a teacher) or takes up knowledge or beliefs [syn: learner, scholar]

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Apprehensive can mean 'quick of apprehension', and would seem to be exactly what you're looking for. Unfortunately, the 'fearful' sense is so common that your readers are likely to be confused. You could try astute or acute.

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You could also use the words adaptable or flexible.

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I'd argue that those words stress an ability to change and learn new things, but have no emphasis on speed. Slow learners can also be adaptable. – CJM Apr 28 '11 at 10:37
While "adapt" and "learn" don't quite mean the same thing, they are close and adaptable does include adapting quickly. "Slow to adapt" is pretty much the opposite of adaptable. – jhocking Apr 28 '11 at 11:22

Most people that I know would use the word 'bright' in the sense of being quick-witted or clever.

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protected by Jasper Loy Jun 28 '12 at 5:25

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