[ in-juh-noo-i-tee, -nyoo- ]
See synonyms for ingenuity on
noun,plural in·ge·nu·i·ties for 3.
  1. the quality of being cleverly inventive or resourceful; inventiveness: a designer of great ingenuity.

  2. cleverness or skillfulness of conception or design: a device of great ingenuity.

  1. an ingenious contrivance or device.

  2. Obsolete. ingenuousness.

Origin of ingenuity

First recorded in 1590–1600; from Latin ingenuitās “innate virtue, etc.” (see ingenuous, -ity); current senses by association with ingenious

word story For ingenuity

Ingenuity comes to English straight from Latin ingenuitās “condition or status of being a freeborn person,” and also “the qualities befitting a freeborn person, nobility of character, honesty, modesty, frankness” (note that these meanings pertain to legal status or citizenship and then to the civic virtues implied by ingenuitās, the implicit assumption being that a person of free birth was more likely to be honorable). Ingenuitās is a derivative of the adjective ingenuus “native to a place, indigenous, born of a free father, freeborn, having the qualities of a freeborn person,” which is what the English derivative ingenuous used to mean. Latin ingenuus, whose literal meaning is “born in,” is composed of the preposition and prefix in, in- and the verb gignere “to beget, give birth to.”
Ingenuity formerly had the meaning “simplicity, candor, frankness,” which corresponds to the current meaning of ingenuous, an adjective which comes directly from Latin ingenuus. Ingenuity with the sense “cleverness, inventiveness, skill” is the result of the mutual confusion— conflation is perhaps the better word—of the adjective ingenious with ingenuous, evidence of which can be found in literature of the 17th and 18th centuries. Ingenious comes from the Latin adjective ingeniōsus “intelligent, talented, clever, gifted,” derived from the noun ingenium “natural disposition, (good) mental abilities, talents, or powers (that is, personal temperament and intellectual qualities).” Latin ingenium comes from the same elements, in, in- and gignere, as ingenuitās and ingenuus. From such similar roots, a confusion was born.

Other words from ingenuity

  • hy·per·in·ge·nu·i·ty, noun
  • su·per·in·ge·nu·i·ty, noun, plural su·per·in·ge·nu·i·ties.

Words Nearby ingenuity Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use ingenuity in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for ingenuity


/ (ˌɪndʒɪˈnjuːɪtɪ) /

nounplural -ties
  1. inventive talent; cleverness

  2. an ingenious device, act, etc

  1. archaic frankness; candour

Origin of ingenuity

C16: from Latin ingenuitās a freeborn condition, outlook consistent with such a condition, from ingenuus native, freeborn (see ingenuous); meaning influenced by ingenious

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