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What could be a good word for "a group of intellectuals" or "a group of smart learners"? Any suggestions of related terms also invited.

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I fancy cognoscenti is not going to be catchy enough...? – Roger Attrill Jul 4 '11 at 9:25
and Intelligentsia is no better... – Roger Attrill Jul 4 '11 at 9:26
Here is probably relevant if its part of the navigation labelling. English SE if its part of the descriptive text. You need to keep part of the label reflecting the 'group working nature'... And it will also depend which country your target audience is in ? – PhillipW Jul 4 '11 at 9:57
I think leaving this open is fine for UX, as it's a question about microcopy, which is related. It also belongs on the English stack, but having the question appear in both places doesn't harm anyone. – Rahul Jul 5 '11 at 7:21
@Rahul - actually, having the question appear in both places is actively discouraged on SE. – Charles Boyung Jul 5 '11 at 12:12

15 Answers 15

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Intelligentsia. A word of Russian origin (интеллигенция,intelligyentsia), imported into English in 1905, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary . It might be a little outmoded now.

Of course you might invent words like punditorat ...

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probably something that's easier to speak & grasp would be much better... Intelligentsia though may be accurate but doesnt sound too good in that respect – user01 Jul 4 '11 at 9:35
I'm sorry you find the word not easy to speak and grasp, Marcos. – Georges Elencwajg Jul 4 '11 at 9:43
I think by and large is a sort of hypothetical 'class' division, rather than a way of describing any particular group of people with OP's specified attributes. – FumbleFingers Jul 7 '11 at 21:37
I agree with Fumble - this answer is totally incorrect. – Joe Blow Jul 7 '11 at 21:56
Joe, you may agree with FumbleFingers or say that my answer is totally incorrect, but not both. And do you realize that statements have to be supported by those boring sentences known as "arguments" and "reasoning"? – Georges Elencwajg Jul 9 '11 at 8:38

In England I would probably use the word boffins.

Our crack team of boffins laboured through the night decoding enemy transmissions.

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Boffins in the popular imagination are not normally expected to be particularly 'intellectual' in the common sense which has associations with high-minded, cultured. Boffins are often perceived as quite philistine; mechanistic slaves to their test-tubes and calculators, divorced from the world of aesthetics. – FumbleFingers Jul 7 '11 at 21:41
A shed of boffins? – Joe Blow Jul 7 '11 at 21:51

I can suggest nerds or eggheads (some might consider this impolite though).

@Georges Elencwajg has given a good choice in intelligentsia which has the synonyms clerisy and literati.

clerisy: men of learning as a class or collectively; the intelligentsia or literati.


literati [ˌlɪtəˈrɑːtiː]: literary or scholarly people

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It is not because I want to return a compliment, but I really like your suggestions, Jose. In particular whenever I hear the word egghead, I imagine scientists from cartoons by Gary Larson... – Georges Elencwajg Jul 4 '11 at 11:48

You might be interested in the word "salon", which was used to refer to a gathering of intellectuals in 17th and 18th century France.

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Collective nouns?

  • Pomposity of professors
  • A pretension of intellects

From AllSorts:

  • A spell of wizards
  • An arrogance of intellectuals
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+1 "Pomposity of professors" and "pretension of intellects" are definitely it. – Thursagen Jul 4 '11 at 10:41
A snobbery of intellectuals. – Optimal Cynic Nov 20 '11 at 3:52

A collective noun is the phrase. Here are some from Wikipedia and another site.

My favourite is a busyness of ferrets or a charm of finches. Their suggestion is a pretension of intellectuals, not keen on this. What about a consideration or meeting, as that is where you will mainly find them?

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Maybe circle, as in Vienna Circle. Depending on the specific nature of those groups, you can call them "philosophical circles", "scientific circles" etc or, more generally, "intellectual circles". But, in general, the historically relevant groups were named after the name of the city in which they were held (eg. Vienna, Bloomsbury) or after their leading figures, as in Kraft Circle.

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circle sounds nice.. Is there some word that could be prefixed to add more clarity & desired meaning to this!? – user01 Jan 30 '12 at 19:31
@user, I added more information about the word and its usage. – Otavio Macedo Jan 30 '12 at 19:58

If I'm correctly understanding your question, I'd think that "forum" would work nicely.



  1. A meeting or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged.

  2. An Internet message board.

This doesn't quite convey the part "...on topics of their specializations/interests.", at least not to me. You could prepend "interest" for the added meaning.

After a hard day of work, people of all sorts gather at the local watering hole to hold an interest forum.

Of course, the fact that forum has predominantly come to refer to an internet forum may be a stumbling block to understanding its meaning, although the concept is the same.

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'Gifted Geeks'

Concise flattery with alliteration.

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A group of people who socialize with one another is a society.

If the site is specifically about academia, the word school might work, as it can denote people who study together (as in "boarding school"), study the same subject ("Duke University School of Nursing"), or are like-minded (school of thought).

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society is ways too much general and school/academy sounds a bit nerdy – user01 Jul 8 '11 at 7:53

What about brains trust (depending on where you are). It's exactly what you say—a group or team or crew of brainiacs, perhaps tasked with achieving some goal, developing a new strategy, or whatever the case may be.

"Let's put the brains trust on that problem, while we continue to unload the trucks..."

It's not really negative, or rude; it's more grudgingly admiring. And I think it's probably USA enough to get you through.

Note: IMO the only other suggestion here that works and actually describes a tasked group, as the OP asks, is Fumble's think-tank.

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You might look for material related to the Algonquin Round Table, perhaps the most famous American intellectual/witty group, from the 1920s in New York City.

They referred to themselves as the Vicious Circle, but a Round Table might be allusive enough for your purposes, depending on the context and your audience.

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One of the problems here is that OP is trying to force an association between "intellectuals" and "smart learners".

Many individuals and groups have one of those attributes but not the other; they're not therefore a natural pairing. For example, intelligensia correlates strongly with "intellectuals", but hardly at all with "smart learners"; in most usages, the intelligensia are an elite class wrapped up in their own artistic/social/political prejudices, uninterested in learning about anything beyond that microcosm.

Possibilities, depending on various other attributes of the group/attitudes of the speaker, might be...

coterie, clique, elite, intelligentsia, think-tank

There are of course a whole host of more or less derogatory terms for people and groups of people who are intellectually-minded and/or intellectually sharp, but I'm assuming OP doesn't want that (coterie and clique above steer well into that territory - as do all the others, depending on your stance).

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For a primarily UK audience, you could use colleges.

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If I remember the connotation of the colleges correctly as being somewhat derogatory, the AmE equivalent might be the ivory tower. – Phil N. Jan 31 '12 at 1:44

I can think of scholars, Academy, or researchers.

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Academy may work - it has the idea of a 'grouping together' which I think you need to retain. I don't know whether it works for a US audience though. – PhillipW Jul 4 '11 at 12:49
school/academy sounds a bit nerdy. I want to filter out the nerdiness and perhaps bring some more emphasis on 'smartness' & 'intellignece' – user01 Jul 8 '11 at 7:54
@Marcos I thought you were going for nerdiness. Or rather, in my mind, a word that emphasizes "smartness" and "intelligence" is by definition nerdy. – Patrick McElhaney Jul 8 '11 at 13:01

protected by RegDwigнt Aug 26 '11 at 23:08

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