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Difference Between Smart and Intelligent

intelligence_bookSmart vs Intel ligent

For many people, there is no difference between smart and intelligent, because the words seem to be interchangeable. However, there is a difference between the meanings and use of these words.

Smart can be applied to learned inferences, such as making smart business or emotional decisions. Smart is an earned status. When we study and learn, we become smarter in the subject matter. Book smart or street smart, we have to put effort into becoming smarter.

Intelligence, on the other hand, is something with which you are born. Your IQ is a measurement of your intelligence, and doesn’t change because it is a measure of your ability to learn. This can apply to terms we chronically associate with intelligence, like math, or it can apply to your ability to learn negotiation of emotional issues. In either case, it is inherent, and it simply stems from your genetic makeup.

Smart can also be applied to sarcasm. We have ‘smart alec’ answers, or we can be ‘smart’ when answering a question or talking in a conversation. We don’t apply intelligent to the idea of being sarcastic.

Intelligent is used as a higher level of measured intellect. We give a higher compliment when we tell someone they are intelligent, versus when we tell them that they are smart. Intelligence is directly related to our own degree of sophisticated knowledge.

Smart can also be applied to describe appearance. If you are a smart dresser, or you represent yourself in a smart way, this in no way implies that you have intelligence. It means that you are appropriate for the conditions, and that you look very good. We don’t imply that you are an intelligent dresser.

Intelligence also implies a certain degree of higher education. Whether you’ve actually completed a higher education, or you have yet to do so, we refer to intelligent people as those we assume to have completed a higher level of education than high school. While there are those who are intelligent who never go to college, the implication is essential when understanding the description offered.


1. Smart is a learned application.

2. Smart is an earned status.

3. Intelligence is the measurement of your ability to become smarter through learning.

4. Smart can be applied to sarcasm.

5. Intelligence infers a higher degree of intelligence when compared to smart.

6. Smart can be used to describe appearances.

7. Intelligence implies higher learning levels, and higher education.

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  1. It helped me a lot…

  2. Good job. This was my feeling on the matter & thank you for confirming. I’m often offended when people tell me I’m, “smart”. LOL.

  3. thank you for clearing the meaning somewhat .

  4. I believe this is wrong and is most definitely illogical.

    Below is what the professors in college taught us and it seems much more logical:

    Smart: Common sense, street smart, the smarts you are born with. Like a construction worker who never read a book, but is easily able to solve problems and understand things better than the average.

    Intelligent: Knowledge, book smart, the knowledge you acquire. Like a professor who spent their lives studying books and has a great deal of information, but can lack common sense.

    I would never call someone who never read a book an intellectual, just like I would never call a someone who lacks common sense to be very smart.

    I’ve found it is rare to find someone who is both very smart and highly intelligent.

    Also I do believe they are phasing out the IQ system because it is not a good representation of a persons intelligence and does not properly rate intelligence.

    • You are smart but not intelligent.

    • First off I believe both of your definitions are insulting and in accurate. They are both condescending. So one should learn the definition of what smart is from a person that is intelligent ?? I beg to differ. I take it you have also not met very many people because there are many smart and intelligent people in society. And the whole IQ deal. It may not be the best way but it is fairly accurate. I take it you disagree with your personal IQ score. I suspect you’re one of the people that are the grammar nazi type. Tying implement the one thing they know and you’re probably still in college. Grammar also has nothing to do with being smart or intelligent. Sorry if I’m sounding condescending but simply only stating my opinion based on your response.

      • I do not know what my IQ is, nor do I care. I do have a right to my opinion, just as you do. Although I respect others who think differently and would not throw personal insults directly at someone out of the blue, unless they’re already throwing personal insults at me ;p I am merely stating what I believe. Also I’m not the only one who thinks this way, there are a number of websites that talk about the same thing. Go throw personal insults there ;p

        If people would just open there minds and take this as a learning experience, whether or not they believe it, instead of feeling like there intelligence is being insulted. Especially from people I have never met and do not know what there intelligence is. Major insecurities here!

        btw I know my grammar sucks, and I’m very liberal and open minded, I’m not still in college, but I did go, excelled in math and science. I believe I have above average smarts, common sense, and logic, but average intelligence and book smarts. I have met more people from around the world than you could possibly imagine, and from my personal opinion, I think there are many people who are intelligent and smart, but most only truly excel and one.

        Nobody is as smart as they think they are ;p none of us live long enough to grow up!

    • You are definitely smart, but lack intelligence. Common sense is a good surviving tool. Cave men were smart….

      Intelligence is inherent to just a few.

      Good luck

      • This is very a narrow minded view. Much too black and white for my taste. More than just a few are intelligent and it is not entirely inherited.

        You might be intelligent, but you are not very smart and lack a certain logic.

  5. People have a real problem with labeling someone as intelligent when their GPA’s are much higher. But most educators know that this is not the case. You can have children that study their butts off and make 100%’s on the lessons they are learning at the moment, but then two weeks down the road they have’nt a clue about what they learned. Then they’re are people that learn something and are able to carry this knowledge with them and actually put what they learn to use!

  6. Thanks!! I thought they were the same thing!!

  7. I was bet $100 that a woman’s dogs were smarter and more intelligent than I. I replied with a snarky comment. Apparently, after reading this article, I am smarter and more intelligent than ANY dog. WIN.

  8. One part of what it saids about intelligent being of emotional issue
    of having a problemo in an academic such as math is obviously clear to get help in this matter. In doing so you will be getting that pat on the back that of what it means “Good Job”!

  9. I would like to tell everyone that I have enjoyed reading the responses regarding the topic of Intelligent/smart. I am a psychology major and often wonder if either fit into the category of “situational”.

  10. Not true intelligence is 50% genetic and 50% environmental.
    I.Q. can be increased by learning and studying.

  11. No… This is wrong. especially about the IQ part. Your IQ changes all the time, with age, stress, etc.

  12. The U.S. military ranks intelligence by memory recall. Kind of puts all arguments to rest.

  13. I liked reading through this. I especially like when people talk about being smart vs. intelligent, and misspell words. It makes me giggle. Are you not “smart” enough to turn on spell check, or are you not “intelligent” enough to use spell check. Therein lies the difference.

    I’m not a Webster, but I have my definitions of these words as per real world applications. Ergo, I’m weighing is for what it’s worth. Smart is the accumulation of significant knowledge on any, or a number of, subjects. Intelligence is the ability to apply knowledge. I.E. ,the more things you are smart about, the more opportunities you have to show intelligence. That’s the reason for going to higher learning. However, you can accumulate loads of knowledge without purpose, and still be useless. Being smart does not make you intelligent. In my dictionary, the two are not synonymous.

    I know a lot of people who may not be considered academically smart, but they have shown me they are truly intelligent. They accumulated knowledge on a particular subject, and they can improve methodologies on applications to that field. On the other hand, I know people who have studied subjects relentlessly, and all the can do is regurgitate what others have already said. Academia would have you think that the only path to smart or intelligent is through them, but I say look at how things get done.

    Smart is knowing stuff; intelligent is using the stuff you know.

    • EXACTLY!!! Very well put. imho.

    • I’ve generally gone with a description similar to MT; I’m not on-board with the OP. I put a lot of thought into this when I was tested. I volunteered for a study in college out of curiosity at a time when I was able to notice a difference in my thinking against a known smart population (engineering school). In high school, there was always a chance that those around me were just dumb, for lack of a better word. We were asked to do a little research and provide a self assessment. The results were a measured IQ roughly +2sd (WAIS), so I’m no genius but not average either. Luckily, my self-assessment, though I hesitated to not drop the value in order to relieve pressure on the result, was very close. It has been obvious to me that there are many more people who are smart than are truly intelligent. However, it is also obvious that it is possible to excel whether you are smart or intelligent. It is more important to understand where each individual falls than given credit to unlock potential.

  14. Keep in mind that IQ is a measurement of your intelligence. And measurements can be off sometimes. While your IQ may change with situational factors, your intelligence, in general, does not.

  15. So a smart person can’t become intelligent?

  16. Smart people without intelligence will not know if what they are learning is correct or false. They lack the intellect needed to qualify random information.
    An intelligent person has the ability to learn something new that contradicts old information and determine what is factual based on logic and analytical skills. The intelligent person has the ability to forget falsities in light of newly-discovered truths. It is often the ability to forget these wrong memories in the wake of dominant truth that prevents real progress in many aspects.
    The smart person who lacks intelligence will deny new contradictory information as incorrect and rely on a old knowledge without the ability to reconsider.
    For example, some smart people still believe that saturated fat like butter, tallow, coconut oil, or any fat from a healthy animal is unhealthy. If the smart person is also intelligent then they will be able to replace false information with the truth about healthy saturated fat in light of learning what the current research tells us.

  17. Smart is your ability to use your level of intelligence that you were born with. You can be very intelligent and not very smart. You maybe able to calculate the trajectory at which the ball enters the hoop, but when it comes to practical application, you fail miserably.

  18. I think jesse hit right on the head . intelligence is ability to apply the information you have learned. through application we learn even more than what we could ever read about or be taught by somebody.I also believe having an ability to unlearn things that you think you know is an even better trait. Never accept what was heard or read as finality and sometimes two different beliefs about one thing can both be correct.

  19. It’s hard to understanding… However.. We can find a difference between of these words. :)

  20. Honestly, I learnt more from commentaries than the subject matter. But I think a lot of dudes kept mixing being smart, being intelligent and using INITIATIVE here. Intelligence cannot be defined. I think it is fundamental, a natural ability, an intrinsic quality possessed by every race. Where the problem lies is being smart( a thought-out idea), and making use of your smartness(initiative). Sure they are never the same thing.

  21. Smart/ Intelligent what to say on topics that our Hot and Popular
    that it’s to be knowledgable intellect on your knowledge on a serious note!

  22. Smart/Intelligent to speak on Topics Hot and Popular on a serious note, that to say of life.

  23. Smart means being very knowledgeable, Intelligent means being very teachable.

  24. Wow. This is what I have been looking for. I have been really confused about the differences between smart, intelligent, brilliant, clever and the likes. But I think this has helped a lot.

  25. I got more value out of reading the comments than the article itself. I often feel offended when people call me ‘smart’. Now I understand why. All interesting perspectives thank you. There is one thing I don’t agree with in this article and that is that “we give a higher compliment when we tell someone they are intelligent, versus when we tell them that they are smart”. I think this is very situational. In academic terms or certain work environments, ‘intelligent’ is definitely the higher compliment. However in situations related to problem solving or common sense I think ‘smart’ is the higher compliment. If I have complex analysis to do at work and someone tells me I am intelligent I’d feel more complimented than if they’d used the word ‘smart’. Whereas if my cats keep getting into a particular cupboard at home and I come up with a nifty solution to prevent them from opening said cupboard and someone tells me “what a smart idea”, I feel complimented, whereas ‘intelligent’ would seem out of place there. Just my thoughts.

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