A genius is a person who displays exceptional intellectual ability, creative productivity, universality in genres or originality, typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of new advances in a domain of knowledge. Despite the presence of scholars in many subjects throughout history, many geniuses have shown high achievements in only a single kind of activity.[1]

There is no scientifically precise definition of a genius,[2] and the question of whether the notion itself has any real meaning has long been a subject of debate,[citation needed] although psychologists are converging on a definition that emphasizes creativity and eminent achievement.[citation needed] Usually, genius is associated with talent, but many authors (for example Cesare Lombroso and Arthur Schopenhauer) systematically distinguish these terms.


In ancient Rome, the genius (plural in Latin genii) was the guiding spirit or tutelary deity of a person, family (gens), or place (genius loci).[3] The noun is related to the Latin verbs "gignere" (to beget, to give birth to) and "generare" (to beget, to generate, to procreate), and derives directly from the Indo-European stem thereof: "ǵenh" (to produce, to beget, to give birth). Because the achievements of exceptional individuals seemed to indicate the presence of a particularly powerful genius, by the time of Augustus, the word began to acquire its secondary meaning of "inspiration, talent".[4] The term genius acquired its modern sense in the eighteenth century, and is a conflation of two Latin terms: genius, as above, and Ingenium, a related noun referring to our innate dispositions, talents, and inborn nature.[5] Beginning to blend the concepts of the divine and the talented, the Encyclopédie article on genius (génie) describes such a person as "he whose soul is more expansive and struck by the feelings of all others; interested by all that is in nature never to receive an idea unless it evokes a feeling; everything excites him and on which nothing is lost."[6]