Smart vs Clever vs Intelligent vs Wise

Smart vs Clever vs Intelligent vs Wise Video

All these words have a similar or almost the same meaning. They all describe a person (in some cases also an animal) who is smart in one way or another. The big difference between them is the occasions and situations when you should use them. 


Let’s start with the most common one – smart. 

Smart means that a person, or animal, is able to solve a problem. You use the word smart to describe someone who can think logically and make a good choice in the situation. Smart also means that the person, or animal, understands what you’re telling them and can act based on that information. 

For example:

  • I always believed my child was very smart.
  • That’s a really smart dog. It learned all the tricks in one month.

Smart is used when we want to describe the basic level of intelligence. This requires understanding, reasoning, and then doing an action. 

Opposite of Smart

The opposite of smart is stupid.

So, smart describes someone intelligent or someone who is very knowledgeable. It’s the first step to describing intellect. 


Intelligent is a step above smart. Intelligent is used to describe people, and some rare animals, that can think on their own, and act on their instincts.

When someone is smart they act based on the information they get. When someone is intelligent they find their own information, come to understand it by themselves, and then make up their mind about what they want to do.  

In a way, being intelligent means that a person, or animal, is more independent than when they are smart. This is why an IQ (Intelligence Quotient) test measures intelligence. 

Let’s go over some examples:

  • Most of her students are smart, but she says some of them are so intelligent that they outshine the rest.
  • When he moved to New York and managed to get a job in one week I was sure he was super intelligent.
  • Dolphins are some of the most intelligent animals on the planet.

Intelligent describes this higher level of intellect, and it’s just above smart. Being intelligent means being able to do things on your own, and making choices based on what you know and not what people tell you. 


Now let’s move on to clever. Unlike smart or intelligent, clever is defined by the situation more than the intellect of a person. When someone, or something, is clever it means they can act quickly in that type of situation.

For example:

  • Comedians are clever.
  • My cat is very clever since he’s learned to open the door when we’re not home.
  • I made a joke yesterday and then Ann was clever enough to add to it. We laughed for hours.
  • Please stop your clever remarks in class.

Here we can see that clever is mostly defined by the situation. It can also mean that someone is funny. Clever is not used in the same way as smart or intelligent. It does not describe someone’s intellect. 


And finally – wise. Wise describes a person who knows many things because of their age. Wise can also describe someone who knows a lot of philosophy.

The most common way to use wise is to describe older people who know a lot of information.

For example:

  • My grandpa is so wise. He always gives good advice, and he knows a lot of history.
  • He’s wise for his age. He knows things like an old man would.

This is how we use wise. We describe someone who thinks a lot about a lot of things. We usually expect these people to know a lot of information, but wise doesn’t require them to understand it. Smart and intelligent describe intellect and understanding. 

Wise only means that a person remembers a lot of info and that they are probably old. 

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1 year ago

Wise is not the one who knows a lot but the one who knows how to use the knowledge, where and when to apply it to achieve the intended result; especially in the long perspective.

1 year ago

This is very good analysis. I appreciate the writer.

1 year ago

Wisdom is the ability to interpret information and experiences in beneficial, logical, fair, and mature ways. You can be young and wise; or elderly and unwise. God tells us to seek wisdom, not intellect. The former makes us good parents, neighbors, and citizens; the latter tends to make us vain and only helps in the subject we’re intelligent about.