What is the definition of a "Genius"

I looked on dictionary.com and got something about “an IQ typically above 140”…

Is there a hard-and-fast rule in psychology about what qualifies one to be a genius? What about Mensans? Does membership of Mensa qualify you to say “I am a genius”? (I know you can always say it, but would membership of Mensa make the statement accurate?)

Let’s know

There is no hard and fast definition, it’s just that some people like to define an IQ of >140 as genius. MENSA’s membership requirement i actually alot lower than this (IIRC 120?).
Personally I think genius can only be defined in terms of actual acheivement (I’ve always had a knack for IQ tests but I also accept that a high IQ score only really means that you are good at IQ tests)and even then is a very subjective term.

Mensa’s entry requirements are to be in the top 2% of the population average - i.e. 140+ on the Cattell B scale (as far as I recall).

But does the fact that you meet these requirements mean that you can truthfully say “I am a genius” ?

Yes sorry your right, different tests have different percentiles, looking at the site the range for different tests are 132-148.

MC MoC - I’ve only been on the boards a good solid month, but you seem to be a man that knows what’s what. You and Q.E.D. that is.

Thanks for your answers. But can someone acurately say “I am a genius” if they are a member of Mensa, or have an IQ in excess of 140…

Just wonderin’

No they can’t. An IQ of 140 isn’t all that impressive in any case. I like Winner’s definition of genius as being a person who transforms a domain. Domain being a school of thought such as maths or physics or something along those lines.

An IQ does not equate to genius. An IQ is a measure of potential not of achievement.


It depends entirley on the scale being used. I am a memeber of Nritish Mensa, and scored 152 on the Cattell B test, This is *not[/] genius level., however on the Stanford-Binet test, i believe

145 - 154 Genius Professors
155 - 164 Genius Nobel Prize Winners
165 - 179 High genius
180 - 200 Highest genius
>200 “Unmeasurable” genius

mensa entry level using the stanford-binet is 132, so a mensa member is not necessarily a genius.

Hope this helps

Told you I wasn’t a genius, I can’t even spell British!!

Thanks :slight_smile:

As I said before Tarantula it’s pretty subjective, but if you choose that defintion which isn’t an uncommon one (as shown by dictionary.com). I feel though, that anyone who is willing to annoince to the world that they are a genius (with the exception of Oscar Wilde) can’t be all that clever.

Richard Herring (of Lee and Herring a UK comedy duo) on TMWRNJ: “It’s not for me to say I’m a genius, that’s for others to say”.

I think your getting mixed up between “Genius” and “A Genius”. With regards to “Genius” your point is well taken and I agree completely with you.

Thanks all.

My thought exactly.

Thanks again.

Actually with all due respect, and I don’t know you from job, but you are getting slightly confused here if I may say so.

I am a member of Boston mensa, as is my wife who is an ex-officio of the South Boston chapter. We have seen many form of genius come through the testing process. Some are remarkable, others simply marked.

Psychology is the study of mind and behaviour*. One’s behaviour need not factor into being a genius. Do you see that?
What about members of Mensa? Can they all say “I am a genius?” No.

Some are gifted in various areas. Other’s are functioning at a level unknown to most. Sometimes we get people who are funtioning on such high levels they would not even know to call themselves a genius, or a pauper. We have one such chap who speaks 14 different languages fluently. He’s from Brussels but by speaking to him you’d think he was a Bostonite.

You are searching for a multi-faceted, very dynamic, root of which understanding may only be the key. Something of which you would have to experience rather than read about on these boards. I do hope you see the scope of what the true definition is to that which you speak.

genius is having the knack to see the obvious.

You might try here for inspiration…


I see (and agree). However, what I think you are misunderstanding in my post, is that I (however inaccurately) separate “Genius” and one’s being “A Genius” - using “A Genius” as a sort of IQ Bracket in which certain members of the population are put, whilst others are not - just as “Moron” and “Idiot” (however harshly) were used in days of yore.

“Genius”, on the other hand, I consider as excellence in a particular field, albeit extraordinary excellence - not necessarily related to IQ.

Does anybody agree with me here ?

Thanks for the contributions so far.

I certainly don’t agree. “Genius, in the sense of excellence” is the only kind of genius there is. Separating IQs into categories and declaring that a particular score on a test fits a person into one of those categories is both absurd and offensive in itself; calling one of those categories “genius” both demeans true genius and edifies IQ tests to ridiculous heights.

Don’t get sidetracked into the morals of the situation.

What I am getting at is that in the past, a “Moron” was someone with an IQ between 50 - 75, i.e. 25 to 50 points below normal. An “imbicile” was someone with an IQ between 25 - 50, and and idiot had an IQ of less than 25. If we detach ourselves from the modern liguistic implications of these terms, on this scale a “Genius” had an IQ of 140+.

In common parlance, does this sence of the word still exist, and could it be used correctly? - as already mentioned, Dictionary.com would suggest that it does.

Any ideas ?

I’d say “genius” is extreme mental ability in a major area of human endeavor. (Emphasis on extreme.) There are different kinds of genius. Mathematical genius and musical genius are probably the best known. I don’t know; they may be the most common, too. There have been geniuses in other areas. For example, some people just “get” drawing. As children, they are better painters than many painters will ever be as adults. There are literary geniuses as well. I believe there are also “social geniuses,” i.e., people who have completely mastered the art of human social interaction, but I don’t know how well this has been studied or how much evidence there is for it. (There really is something called “emotional intelligence”; these people are supposed to have very high emotional intelligence.)

Personally, I eschew any IQ-based definition of genius. To me, it sounds like “hey, look at my new hammer (the IQ test)! Let’s see what we can smash with it (the concept of genius)!” SMASH “Cool, now we can even quantify genius! You can prove you’re a genius; just score more than 160 on this test! Oh…ha ha…I mean…just score more than 140 on this test!”

Let’s be frank here. The IQ test as we know it is an approximate measure of human intelligence. People who say there’s no correlation between IQ and intelligence are whining; on the other hand, the correlation between IQ and intelligence is far weaker than the correlation between, say, lengths of objects and measurements obtained using metersticks and rulers (for example). Moreover, as far as I know, the 140 cutoff for genius was drawn simply according to the percentage of the population that falls outside of it, and I think it’s something like 99%.

  1. Who came up with this definition? That’s not rhetorical; I really have no idea.
  2. I find it very hard to believe that 1 in 100 people, or even 1 in 1000 people, is a bona fide genius.
  3. This is not a reasonable basis for a definition of genius. The word “genius” should refer to a real indication of someone’s mental ability, not simply how many people he/she is smarter than.
  4. Very few people would argue against the assertion (becoming a truism) that Ludwig van Beethoven was a genius. A musical genius, that is. How well do you think Beethoven would have scored on an IQ test? Of course, we will never know, but I’ll give you a hint. He couldn’t have added fractions if his life had depended on it!

To me, such definitions devalue the language. When I say somebody is a genius, I really mean something by it. I’m not saying that genius cannot be quantified at all; I’m just saying “(IQ >140) => genius” is certainly not the right definition. Actually, I think IQ itself, as conceived (e.g., as being constant throughout a person’s life), is fundamentally flawed, but that’s beyond the scope of this thread.

Again, I want to separate “Genius” from classification as “A Genius” - although they should be mutually derivative.

Good point.

Another good point.

Again - good point.

I’ll consider the issue settled.

Thanks to all who participated.


I think I forgot this is GQ; I got sidetracked. Tarantula: if a reputable dictionary says that an IQ of 140+ means genius, then it’s probably legitimate usage. But I strongly discourage such usage. And by “reputable” I don’t mean dictionary.com; I mean a monstrous tome like OED.