The Words Moron, Imbecile, and Idiot Mean Different Things

moronToday I found out the words moron, imbecile, and idiot mean different things.  In psychology, an idiot has the least intelligence on the IQ scale (this now is equivalent to someone who is mentally retarded or the more politically correct “mentally challenged”); an imbecile is not quite as dumb as an idiot and is now considered equivalent to moderate retardation; a moron is then the highest level of intelligence for someone who is mentally retarded, thus considered as being mildly mentally retarded.  Specifically, those who have an IQ between 0 and 25 are idiots; IQs between 26 and 50 are considered imbeciles; and those who have an IQ between 51 and 70 are considered morons.

These terms were popular in psychology as associated with intelligence on an IQ test until around the 1960s.  They were then replaced with the terms mild retardation, moderate retardation, severe retardation, and profound retardation.  In addition to this, other factors besides IQ are now used in diagnosing these levels of mental deficiency.

If you liked this article and the Bonus Facts below, you might also enjoy:

Bonus Facts:

  • Before “Down’s Syndrome” was called such, people with Down’s syndrome were called “Mongolian idiots” and the syndrome itself was called “mongolism”.  This comes from the fact that people thought that Down’s syndrome individuals resembled Mongolians.
  • In Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Ohio, idiots don’t have the right to vote.
  • Ironically, the term retarded was used to replace the terms idiot, moron, and imbecile due to the fact that these terms gradually became thought of as derogatory.  This obviously only worked for a while and now “retarded” is itself considered a derogatory term.  It seems any word that basically means “low intelligence” is fated to be thought of as derogatory eventually.  So it’s only a matter of time before politically correct terms like “mentally handicapped” will come to be derogatory themselves.
  • Retarded comes from the Latin “retardare”, which means “to make slow, delay, keep back, or hinder”.  The first record of its use for someone considered mentally deficient was in 1895.
  • The first IQ test was created by French psychologists Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon in 1911.  This initial test measure intelligence by having children point to their nose and count pennies.
  • In California, idiots are one of six types of people who are not capable of committing any form of crime.  In 2007 the term “idiot” was replace with “persons who are mentally incapacitated” in the California legal wording of the penal code on this issue.
  • The word “moron” was coined in 1910 by psychologist Henry H. Goddard and was derived from the ancient Greek word “moros”, which meant “dull”.
  • “Idiot” derives from the ancient Greek, “idio”, meaning “person lacking professional skill” or “mentally deficient person incapable of ordinary reasoning”.
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  • Its ok for them to vote in Alaska though! Its a pity that all voters don’t get checked before they are allowed to vote. Only about 3% would be eligible.

    • Dale

      The entire Democrat Party is all of the above

      • Tyler Hamel

        That’s funny because last time I checked, Donald Trump was a republican

        • NealP

          Even more ironic is a person who is not wealthy voting Republican just because of the parties stance on one or two issues then complaining about how hard it is to pay their bills.
          Psst owning your own trailer does not make you wealthy, even if it is a double wide.

  • Mark

    That is so funny because not only must Alaskan citizens, but their Governor’s children be retarded too! Good one!

  • vernon marsh


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  • Jason

    I believe the correct term to use now is differently-abled, pathetic, yes, i know…

  • Ben

    Perhaps some people are simply less equal?

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  • Stu Stumblemen

    thank you for this, this is awesome

  • Sheeple

    Obama voters are the worst of them all. Look what they voted for.


    • zhanaya

      wonder how you would fare in a one-on-one intelligence test with the obama that you seem to despise so much. people who claim superiority are not usually the ones that are superior. just saying.

  • m

    Idiots have an IQ between 25 and 0? …***ZERO?***… I’d have thought there’d be another name for those with an IQ of 0…perhaps “brain-dead”, or even just plain old “dead”. Are dead people actually idiots? Let’s play it safe & say that an idiot’s IQ is between 25 and 1. But,(assuming that there is such a thing), what the heck is a 1? Certainly, it’s nothing like a 25. I think we need a 4th category, & even then leave 0 out of it.

    • John Reed

      There is a 4th category. It is called an ‘OBAMAPHILE’, and it is characterized as follows: A ‘being’ with an IQ less than zero (0), meaning that their reasoning is so perverse, irrational and illogical, that the remainder of humankind must provide resources to offset their influence so as to ensure that the collective knowledge of mankind is not diminished for future generations.

      The only two known circumstance to meet these conditions, thereby requiring others to intercede toward promoting the general welfare of mankind, occurred:

      1. Between AUG 14-16, 1969, in the ‘event’ known as WOODSTOCK.
      2. Upon the election of B. Hussein OBAMA, admitted Marxist and Islamist, to the presidency of the United States.

      Res ipsa loquitur!

      • 2. Upon the election of B. Hussein OBAMA, admitted Marxist and Islamist, to the presidency of the United States.

        Really? How many ‘admitted Islamists’ that you know attend church with their families? And the Affordable Care Act AKA Obamacare was going to be something like the UK’s National Health Service before your Republican masters got their greedy capitalist hands on it. Yes, the Affordable Care Act started out as a socialist reform, but that doesn’t make it the corruption of Socialism that Communism is.

        • cayuga flash

          Those men in power that wish to lull the public and provide denial as to that ‘true self’ without outright lying…Even Hitler went to church…the comment above was written a year ago…This country is in chaos and led by thieves and liars and those who collude to hide what they do…one running for the highest office in the land that, were she anyone else, would be arrested and brought to trial…B. Obama, knowing most, has his person contact her and tell her to tidy up her mess…Now we face the lesser of two evils..What to do???

      • Blakester

        You are challenged

      • NealP

        How big is your trailer?

        • NealP

          That question was meant for John reed

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  • Melody

    You left out “cretin.”

    • SoShallClimbHer 2016

      He was replaced by Stephen Harper

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  • A current (2012) term in the U.K. is ‘special needs’ which is used in the education system for any person who needs additional support in education for any reason. But already it is being subverted and used by workers in that sector i think, sometimes describing as ‘a bit special’ anyone who is a bit dull of thinking or even someone who is self-obsessed to the point of being out of touch with the rest of us.

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  • jude francis

    Pls can any1 tell me d basic IQ test for retardation cz psychologist tells me dt evry 1 hs a degree of mental deficiency dt can lead to retardation.I want to knw wia my iQ scale falls on may be advance idiot etc.HaHaha.tanx in anticipation of ur speed response.

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  • Elmore

    I think there should be a rating for stupid that’s below zero and it should be reserved for people who thought that George W Bush was a great president.

  • Kris

    This has to do with eugenics. I read an entire book on it and watched a documentary. I read this just to see if the author would mention it.

  • Bill Moyston

    Currently, the DSM IV Axis II term “Mentally Retarded”, has been replaced by Intellectually Disabled. This is offensive “newspeak” to me.

    • SoShallClimbHer 2016

      Yes, but in the new DSM V they changed the clinical diagnostic criteria, and went back to “Retarded”. If it ain’t broken..

  • […] and those who have an IQ between 51 and 70 are considered morons.
    The above information is incorrect. The actual cut off point between someone with average intelligence and someone with an intellectual disability back when those terms were in use was 85. It wasn’t until a decade or so after the change in terminology to mental retardation that the cut off point was dropped to its current level, meaning that we now have a slew of people with below average intelligence who still require services, but are no longer entitled to receive them.

  • Mr A

    You’re confusing Mongolian with Mongaloid.

    • Wild_Bill_vintage_1948

      So what?

  • Phyllis

    I love that you mention that morons and idiots are not capable of committing crimes. That puts them on my A list…..A is for angels.

  • dleet

    The SCOTX ruled that an inmate with a 68 IQ (formerly known as moron) was not mentally impaired, at least in Texas he was normal. Granted, the state wanted to kill him, that’s what Texans do. One of the hallmarks of tasks that impaired cannot perform but normal can, is dressing themselves. Rick Perry has offered a proposal for a state holiday to honor the patent holder of velcro shoe fasteners.

  • Mary Muennig

    The Merriam-Webster dictionary:

    Definition of moron
    usually offensive : a person affected with mild mental retardation
    : a very stupid person

    Definition of stupid
    a : slow of mind : obtuse
    b : given to unintelligent decisions or acts : acting in an unintelligent or careless manner
    c : lacking intelligence or reason : brutish

  • Joe Catania

    The term “handicapped” is also outdated. It refers to the mid to late 1800s policy of those with disabilities having to beg for scraps of food and pocket change by turning their caps upside down at the end of their hand { “hand in cap” ]..It has the impression of a panhandler/beggar.

  • Rock Your World

    Technically speaking, do they still hold the same meaning even though they are outdated?