I am a non-native speaker in need of a term to describe a strikingly smart person. That is, one who is extraordinary intelligent or has amazing abilities or qualities. I know that a prodigy is used as a noun to describe such persons and, during research, found:


The definition, as given by oxforddictionaries.com, however, makes me unsure that 'prodigious' suits my needs:

Remarkably or impressively great in extent, size, or degree:

How would a native speaker perceive the usage of prodigious in a context that implies that a character being described is of such strikingly smart nature, and are there any alternatives?

Please note that I know, for example, the term ingenious but would like to use something even more powerful to describe the utter outstanding nature of the character, if possible.

  • A polymath is a person who has knowledge in a wide range of subjects, though it doesn't necessarily imply superior intelligence.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 22:53
  • Sage implies great wisdom, but not necessarily great intelligence.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 22:57
  • Sharp is a commonly used word.
    – user116032
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 14:57

2 Answers 2


Prodigious would definitely not be understood in the way you would be meaning it if you apply it to a person directly, like

Bob is truly prodigious. (not recommended)

However, you could certainly use it to describe their intelligence, like so:

Bob has a prodigious intellect.

If you simply want to say that someone is remarkably intelligent, I might recommend sticking with genius:

: a very smart or talented person : a person who has a level of talent or intelligence that is very rare or remarkable

: a person who is very good at doing something

: great natural ability : remarkable talent or intelligence

(from m-w.com)

While this is not an adjective, you could certainly use it descriptively, as in "He is a true genius".


Consider brainiac that is a very intelligent and usually studious, erudite person.

Example: Why brainiac? Brainiacs are extraordinary thinkers who think in a way most people are extraordinary thinkers who think in a way most people are unfamilar with. They think uncommon. Commonsense is so common that it does not make real sense to uncommon thinkers, it never did. source: Braniac's by Salah Habib

  • Is that a quote from something? I'm struggling to try and make sense of your example. In my (native-speaker) world, "braniac" is usually reserved for sarcasm, like when somebody does something bone-headed..."That's just great, Braniac!" Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 22:34
  • @KristinaLopez - Yes, "braniac" is often (mostly) use with a negative connotation. But, opposite to the books "for dummies", Thomson/Peterson's has published some books "for brainiacs".
    – Graffito
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 22:44
  • Gotcha. ( I found your quote online - you should cite its source) Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 22:48

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