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 Feb 16 '16 at 22:53
  • Sage implies great wisdom, but not necessarily great intelligence. – Hot Licks Feb 16 '16 at 22:57
  • Sharp is a commonly used word. – user116032 Feb 17 '16 at 14:57

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!" – Kristina Lopez Feb 16 '16 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 Feb 16 '16 at 22:44
  • Gotcha. ( I found your quote online - you should cite its source) – Kristina Lopez Feb 16 '16 at 22:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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