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

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


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.


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.

  • Those are not adjectival uses of genius. It is still a noun there. – tchrist Jul 21 '14 at 13:13
  • 1
    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 Aug 4 '14 at 19:47
  • It’s like with your idiot girlfriend and your farmer girlfriend. Those are attributive nouns, not adjectives. Your answer is wrong. – tchrist Aug 4 '14 at 22:58
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    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 Aug 10 '14 at 15:14
  • A minor caveat—one I have had to clarify several times on this site—I am British, and it is entirely possible that my observations are restricted to BrE usage. – Karl Aug 10 '14 at 15:15

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.

  • Agreed, @Blake. Fortunate that it works out for these examples. (+1) – Karl Aug 11 '14 at 1:57

protected by NVZ Jan 24 '17 at 13:37

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