[ in-jeen-yuhs ]
/ ɪnˈdʒin yəs /
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See synonyms for: ingenious / ingeniously / ingeniousness on Thesaurus.com

characterized by cleverness or originality of invention or construction: an ingenious machine.
cleverly inventive or resourceful: an ingenious press agent.
  1. intelligent; showing genius.
  2. ingenuous.
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Origin of ingenious

First recorded in 1375–1425; late Middle English, from Old French ingenïos, from Latin ingeniōsus, engeignos “clever, talented, gifted,” equivalent to ingeni(um) “natural disposition, temperament, mood; natural ability, cleverness” + -ōsus adjective suffix; see origin at in-2, genitor; see also -ium, -ous

words often confused with ingenious

Ingenious and ingenuous arose from the same Latin root meaning “to beget, give birth” and once had the same meaning. They are now distinct from each other and are not synonyms. Ingenious means “characterized by cleverness” or “cleverly inventive,” as in contriving new explanations or methods: an ingenious device; ingenious designers. Both ingenious and ingenuous originally meant “of honorable or free birth, noble in character; open, frank, candid,” senses that exist in Latin. Since the second half of the 17th century, ingenuous has acquired the additional sense “naively open, innocently frank”: an ingenuous and sincere statement; a thug with the ingenuous eyes of a choirboy.



ingenious , ingenuous (see confusables note at the current entry)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What’s the difference between ingenious and ingenuous?

Ingenious means clever or cleverly inventive or resourceful. Ingenuous means sincere or, perhaps more commonly, naive or innocent.

Careful: ingenious sounds like genius (the two are often used in the same contexts and even come from the same root) but it’s not spelled ingenius.

Ingenious is most often used in the context of ideas, inventions, and solutions considered clever for their inventiveness and resourcefulness. The related noun ingenuity refers to the quality of being ingenious—cleverness or inventiveness.

Ingenuous, on the other hand, is most commonly used to describe people—typically people considered naive or overly trusting, especially due to a lack of real-world experience. The related noun ingénue refers to a young, inexperienced person.

The adjective disingenuous is more commonly used than ingenuous and means insincere or falsely ingenuous—someone who’s described as disingenuous might be faking naivete.

Once upon a time, ingenious was used to mean ingenuous, but this is no longer the case.

To remember the difference, remember that ingenious sounds like genius and is used in similar contexts—an ingenious idea might also be described as a genius idea. Just don’t forget the -ous ending in ingenious.

The middle of ingenuous sounds like the beginning of genuine, and an ingenuous person is usually a genuine one—nothing about them is insincere or intended to hide who they really are.

Here’s an example of ingenious and ingenuous used correctly in a sentence.

Example: The ingenuous inventor signed away the rights to his ingenious new creation without realizing it.

Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between ingenious and ingenuous.

Quiz yourself on ingenious vs. ingenuous!

Should ingenious or ingenuous be used in the following sentence?

The design is truly _____—I’ve never seen anything like it.

How to use ingenious in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for ingenious

/ (ɪnˈdʒiːnjəs, -nɪəs) /

possessing or done with ingenuity; skilful or clever
obsolete having great intelligence; displaying genius

Derived forms of ingenious

ingeniously, adverbingeniousness, noun

Word Origin for ingenious

C15: from Latin ingeniōsus, from ingenium natural ability; see engine
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