late 14c., "the highest faculty of the mind, capacity for comprehending general truths;" c. 1400, "faculty of understanding, comprehension," from Old French intelligence (12c.) and directly from Latin intelligentia, intellegentia "understanding, knowledge, power of discerning; art, skill, taste," from intelligentem (nominative intelligens) "discerning, appreciative," present participle of intelligere "to understand, comprehend, come to know," from assimilated form of inter "between" (see inter-) + legere "choose, pick out, read," from PIE root *leg- (1) "to collect, gather," with derivatives meaning "to speak (to 'pick out words')."
Meaning "superior understanding, sagacity, quality of being intelligent" is from early 15c. Sense of "information received or imparted, news" first recorded mid-15c., especially "secret information from spies" (1580s). Meaning "a being endowed with understanding or intelligence" is late 14c. Intelligence quotient first recorded 1921 (see I.Q.).