Differences Between Knowledge, Wisdom & Understanding

, Staff Editor
Updated July 6, 2020
knowledge to understanding to wisdom
    knowledge to understanding to wisdom
    woman: CSA Images / CSA Images / Getty Images, owl: Marvid / iStock / Getty Images Plus, brain: Vectorios2016 / DigitalVision Vectors / Getty Images

Knowledge and wisdom might seem like synonyms, but they’re not. You can have knowledge without wisdom, but you can’t have wisdom without knowledge. Use definitions and examples to help you see how these intellectual terms differ.

What Is Knowledge?

Knowledge is a noun defined as “what is learned.” It is a familiarity with facts or certain subjects. Knowledge typically deals with factual information you have learned from school, books, or other experts.

Synonyms for Knowledge

While some use knowledge and wisdom interchangeably, the best synonyms for knowledge are:

What Is Wisdom?

Wisdom is a noun defined as “the ability to know what is true or right; common sense or the collection of one's knowledge.” It goes beyond facts and requires pulling together knowledge and personal experiences.


Synonyms for Wisdom

To capture the full meaning of wisdom, the best synonyms are:

Main Differences Between Knowledge and Wisdom

Knowledge is the information you have learned, while wisdom is the ability to use that knowledge in a profound way. So, knowledge is a part and wisdom is the whole. Wisdom goes beyond learning facts and includes making sense of those facts.

Similarities Between Knowledge and Wisdom

While they’re not exact synonyms, knowledge and wisdom do have a lot in common.

  • They are both nouns about the process of gaining information.
  • To have knowledge or wisdom, you need more than one piece of information.
  • According to the Bible, God is the source of both knowledge and wisdom for man.

Knowledge and wisdom are just two of many words that are often confused with each other.

Knowledge vs. Wisdom. vs. Understanding

Understanding can be an adjective or a noun. As a noun, it’s like the step between knowledge and wisdom. When you comprehend the information you’ve learned, or knowledge, you understand it. When you understand the knowledge and learn to apply it to decision-making, you gain wisdom.

Knowledge vs. Wisdom vs. Intelligence

Intelligence is defined as “the ability to retain knowledge, use reasoning to solve problems, or have above average brain power.” Essentially, intelligence involves remembering all the knowledge you’ve gained and using it for simple problem solving. Wisdom is related to complex reasoning and problem solving.


Knowledge vs. Wisdom vs. Insight

Insight is the ability “to see or understand something clearly, often sensed using intuition.” It’s your ability to see and comprehend the nature of things. While insight and wisdom are very close concepts, insight involves a bigger picture than wisdom.

Is Knowledge or Wisdom Better?

Knowledge and wisdom are both important parts of personal development and global decision-making, but which is more important? Since wisdom includes having knowledge, you could argue that wisdom is better because it includes both concepts. Expand your knowledge base by learning from common words of wisdom.