9

Can the word 'genius' be used as an adjective?

For example: 'A genius plan' or 'This is a genius piece of work'?

2

2 Answers 2

5

The simple answer is, yes.

This usage of 'genius' as an adjective is relatively new and would still be considered by many (including me) as slang. In that vein, the following would also be acceptable:

my genius girlfriend

Your plan is genius!

However, it would be more standard (and advised in formal settings) to use the word 'ingenious' in all of these examples, including your own, as it is an adjective.

Therefore:

an ingenious plan

an ingenious piece of work

my ingenious girlfriend

Your plan is ingenious.

As a note, I imagine that the use of 'genius' as an adjective has in fact arisen as a mistaken combination of the two words 'genius' and 'ingenious' in much the same way as the erroneous 'irregardless' has come from 'regardless' and 'irrespective'.

Also, not to be confused with ingenuous.

12
  • Those are not adjectival uses of genius. It is still a noun there.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 13:13
  • 2
    How so?Compare "my genius girlfriend" with "my clever girlfriend". Together 'clever' and 'girlfriend' create a noun phrase, but clever is an adjective. Same is so for 'genius', though as I said, it is certainly a new application of the word. It is used this way widely, though I wouldn't use it myself outside of 'chatty' conversation.
    – Karl
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 19:47
  • 2
    I'm unconvinced. I'd accept that it started out that way, but I think it's made the shift. I also think it's pretty bold to be throwing the word "wrong" around so certainly in this context. The phrase "that is genius!" is very common today, in a way that "that is idiot" and certainly "that is farmer" would absolutely not work. I agree that it is uncomfortable for the more pure at heart, but that doesn't mean it isn't happening. Such is language; it is happening all the time.
    – Karl
    Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 15:14
  • 1
    Very nicely sidestepped the rest of the point there, how sneaky. One might even say it was genius! I shall look for some evidence of wizard, though being mostly slang/dialectic I might struggle, if I'm honest.
    – Karl
    Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 15:50
  • 1
    Yes, and once again I shall remind you that I have put all of these down as slang. From this point on, if you choose to ignore the ngram references and the dictionary examples, I shall consider this exchange over, as it would be a waste of time to continue.
    – Karl
    Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 16:09
3

I'd just point out that "ingenious" is not the adjective form of "genius," and the meanings differ significantly. While using "ingenious" in the above instances would make sense, try substituting the word "clever" or "inventive." That would be a good approximation of what you'd actually be saying. When you think of the word "ingenious," think of the words engine or engineer--they have the same Latin root. "Genius" has a different root.

1
  • Agreed, @Blake. Fortunate that it works out for these examples. (+1)
    – Karl
    Commented Aug 11, 2014 at 1:57

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.