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ingenuous

[ in-jen-yoo-uhs ]
/ ɪnˈdʒɛn yu əs /
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See synonyms for: ingenuous / ingenuously / ingenuousness on Thesaurus.com

adjective
free from reserve, restraint, or dissimulation; candid; sincere.
Obsolete. honorable or noble.
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Origin of ingenuous

First recorded in 1590–1600; from Latin ingenuus “native, free-born, honorable, frank; (of studies or occupations) befitting a freeborn person, liberal,” equivalent to in- verb prefix + gen- (base of gignere “to bring into being”) + -uus adjective suffix; see in-2, ingenious, -ous

words often confused with ingenuous

See ingenious.

OTHER WORDS FROM ingenuous

WORDS THAT MAY BE CONFUSED WITH ingenuous

ingenious, ingenuous (see confusables note at ingenious)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

INGENUOUS VS. INGENIOUS

What’s the difference between ingenuous and ingenious?

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 naiveté.

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 ingenuous and ingenious 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 ingenuous and ingenious.

Quiz yourself on ingenuous vs. ingenious!

Should ingenuous or ingenious be used in the following sentence?

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

How to use ingenuous in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for ingenuous

ingenuous
/ (ɪnˈdʒɛnjʊəs) /

adjective
naive, artless, or innocent
candid; frank; straightforward

Derived forms of ingenuous

ingenuously, adverbingenuousness, noun

Word Origin for ingenuous

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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