When I look up the word "heady" in the dictionary, it seems that the main definition is "tending to intoxicate." Farther down, "having an exhilarating effect" and "intellectually demanding" are also definitions.

For some reason, when I have heard this word used, I have associated it with meaning something like "too intellectual or philosophical; not practical enough" or "too much thinking and not enough practical application."

My questions are: 1) does anyone else understand this word like I do? and 2) if not, what are some similar terms that I could use instead?

  • 1
    The "Heady" Epidemic is at Large : hubpages.com/style/The-Heady-Epidemic
    – user66974
    May 16, 2016 at 6:49
  • youtube.com/watch?v=8vjEnkQdaHM
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 11, 2017 at 3:11
  • The expression "These are heady times" goes back 50 years, at least, and always implied to me "exhilarating" or "exciting".
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 11, 2017 at 3:14
  • 1
    "Too intellectual or philosophical; not practical enough" - no, in fact "A heady dose of reality" is a common usage.
    – Phil Sweet
    Aug 18, 2017 at 17:13
  • I've ABSOLUTELY used 'heady' and 'intellectual' interchangeably. Is it a colloquial use? Also- I don't think the original poster was asking for synonyms...
    – user256120
    Sep 8, 2017 at 0:54

3 Answers 3


I've never seen the term heady used with the connotation you are suggesting, unless you are referring to the following meanings:

  • marked by or showing good judgment : shrewd, intelligent
  • intellectually stimulating or demanding. (M-W)

Heady (adj.):

  • late 14c., "headstrong, hasty, impetuous," from head (n.) + adj. suffix -y (2). First recorded 1570s in sense of "apt to go to the head."

Cerebral may suggest what you are referring to:

  • Intellectual rather than emotional or physical:
  • 'Cerebral' is closer. 'Mental' might be another way to say it, although it has other connotation.
    – Baodad
    May 17, 2016 at 19:19
  • @Baodad - I do think cerebral is a more appropriate choice with reference to your description.
    – user66974
    May 17, 2016 at 19:26
  • I think it's clear that the "intellectually stimulating or demanding" M-W definition is what the original poster was referring to. I've used it in this context as well. Jun 24, 2020 at 16:20

My mother used to always ask me why am I so heady ( she meant hardheaded).

late 14c., "headstrong, hasty, impetuous," from head (n.) + adj. suffix -y (2). First recorded 1570s in sense of "apt to go to the head."

Source: Etymonline


I think I've only heard heady used with this implication in one place -- a Smiths song called 'What She Said', which contains the lyrics:

What she read: all heady books, she'd sit and prophesise.

It took a tattooed boy from Birkenhead to really, really open her eyes.

Academic is quite often used in the 'too much thinking, not enough doing' sense:

Academic (adj.)

  1. Relating to education and scholarship.

  2. Not of practical relevance; of only theoretical interest.

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