I am attempting to formulate a phrase that is an exceptional alternative to the banal "stupid". I have found some good contestants, but I feel that exiguous, if I am using it correctly, will fit the best for my taste. So far, I am attempting to decide among the following phrases:

"Intellectually impaired"

"Intellectually deficient"

"Intellectually meager"

"Intellectually inferior"

"Intellectually exiguous"

Example usage/real scenario (reason for which this question was asked):

"Who can use the most Propaganda in their advertisement without the intellectually [chosen word] majority noticing?"

Here's where the first question appears. Is "exiguous" used correctly in the following:

"Who can use the most Propaganda in their advertisement without the intellectually exiguous majority noticing?"

The taste that I previously referenced to was that of my perception of the word that best fits the above example. I was looking for a phrase whose meaning is, essentially, "stupid", but whose wording cannot be confused with something similar to "mentally handicapped" or "mentally challenged" with substantial ease. I suppose that when one closely analyzes the meaning of "stupid", it's almost inevitable that it'll be in affiliation with some mental disability. In the case that we completely disregard that, though, which of the phrases listed above would be the best fit for my situation? I'm almost certain I'd pick "exiguous". If I'm incorrectly using "exiguous" and I cannot use it, what would be the next best option to pick? Lastly, as a final request, are there any other alternative phrases similar to those listed above meaning "stupid" that you know or can fabricate?

  • "stupid" may be banal, but is that a bad thing?
    – user428517
    May 19, 2015 at 17:19

2 Answers 2


I wouldn't use any of the five suggested terms. Three of them—"intellectually impaired," "intellectually deficient," and "intellectually inferior"—have obvious and unfortunate connotations of congenital mental deficiency that might suggest to some readers a eugenics-based arrogance on the part of the speaker/writer. There is no upside to being viewed as such a speaker/writer.

"Intellectually exiguous," although it enlists the mediating influence of the $3 word exiguous, still amounts to saying "intellectually inadequate," which again introduces the notion of innate intelligence or stupidity. "Intellectually meager" is the most creative option of the five, but it comes across as a bit odd—much as "intellectually sparse" or "intellectually skimpy" would.

In my view, a quasi-physiological critique is not necessary or desirable in characterizing the kind of "stupidity" that seems to be at issue in the sentence "Who can use the most Propaganda in their advertisement without the intellectually [chosen word] majority noticing?" As any good dictionary will affirm, stupidity can refer to poor judgment or to dulled perception as readily as it can to a shortcoming in raw intelligence. Rather than challenge the mental capacity or mental competence of the decried majority, I would focus on their slothful or submissive intellectual habits or on the state of disuse of their critical faculties. Along those lines, you might use one of these options:

intellectually indolent

intellectually docile

intellectually tractable

intellectually suggestible

intellectually reflexive

intellectually numb

intellectually anesthetized

intellectually etherized

There are many other options of a similar kind, none of which will make you sound like someone who is preoccupied with the idea of possessing a superior share of genetically inherited intelligence.

  • 3
    The bio text in the OP's profile is somewhat instructive...
    – Erik Kowal
    Jan 13, 2015 at 7:55
  • Thank you profusely. You help quite much; however, there was one portion of my question you over looked or neglected to answer - is exiguous being used correctly in the circumstance provided? I can find no other "problems" with your answer when referencing to my question. I know that you may not have the answer, so I won't demand you answer it. It is rather irrelevant, but I should like to know the answer regardless. Thanks again. Jan 23, 2015 at 7:41
  • 1
    The Merriam-Webster definition of exiguous borders on oxymoronic: "excessively scanty." In my opinion that meaning doesn't lend itself very well to a characterization of intellects, but other views are possible. A Google Books search of the term finds it applied (at the height of its popularity, in the 1930s) to phrases such as "the exiguous fire in the exiguous dining-room," and to objects such as the ties of blood, the pavements of Saint-Malo, the tops of Himalayan peaks, and the ornithological side of British literature. So I'd say that your proposed usage is a bit of a stretch.
    – Sven Yargs
    Jan 23, 2015 at 8:58

'X-challenged' seems to be quite commonly used these days for people deficient in X, and intellectually challenged has already appeared in several places, including in this Daily Mail article: They're already called 'vertically challenged - Are short people intellectually challenged too?

  • The problem I have with that is the fact that it is commonly used. I would prefer a phrase that is less commonly used and is more intellectually structured. Nov 26, 2014 at 9:25

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