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[in-jen-yoo-uh s] /ɪnˈdʒɛn yu əs/
free from reserve, restraint, or dissimulation; candid; sincere.
artless; innocent; naive.
Obsolete. honorable or noble.
Origin of ingenuous
1590-1600; < Latin ingenuus native, free-born, honorable, frank, equivalent to in- in-2 + gen- (base of gignere; see ingenious) + -uus deverbal adj. suffix; see -ous
Related forms
ingenuously, adverb
ingenuousness, noun
half-ingenuous, adjective
half-ingenuously, adverb
half-ingenuousness, noun
Can be confused
ingenious, ingenuous (see usage note at ingenious)
1. frank, straightforward, open. 2. guileless.
Usage note
See ingenious. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for ingenuous
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Without knowing why, they understood perfectly now that neither had been ingenuous.

    The Spenders Harry Leon Wilson
  • Somehow, the inflection on the last word did not altogether suggest the ingenuous.

    Within the Law Marvin Dana
  • It was ingenuous and brave; born of a proud and great purity.

    The Dream Emile Zola
  • He trembled before this innocence, so ardent and so ingenuous.

    The Dream Emile Zola
  • He was, however, anticipated by the voice of the ingenuous and youthful Alice.

    The Last of the Mohicans James Fenimore Cooper
  • Her ingenuous innocence did not conceal her gladness at seeing me!

    Alice, or The Mysteries, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • I cannot boast of Mr. Creech's ingenuous fair dealing to me.

  • Thy heart is ingenuous and sincere; thy misfortune is poignant and affecting.

    Imogen William Godwin
  • Imogen stood for a moment in a sweet and ingenuous state of suspense.

    Imogen William Godwin
British Dictionary definitions for ingenuous


naive, artless, or innocent
candid; frank; straightforward
Derived Forms
ingenuously, adverb
ingenuousness, noun
Word Origin
C16: from Latin ingenuus freeborn, worthy of a freeman, virtuous, from in-² + -genuus, from gignere to beget
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for ingenuous

1590s, "noble in nature," from Latin ingenuus "with the virtues of freeborn people, of noble character, frank, upright, candid," originally "native, freeborn," from in- "in" (see in- (2)) + gen-, root of gignere "beget, produce" (see genus). Sense of "artless, innocent" is 1670s, via evolution from "high-minded" to "honorably open, straightforward," to "innocently frank." Related: Ingenuously; ingenuousness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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