from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Lacking in cunning, guile, or worldliness; innocent or naive: synonym: naive.
  • adjective Straightforward or frank; candid.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Freeborn; of honorable extraction.
  • Generous; noble: as, an ingenuous ardor or zeal.
  • Free from restraint or reserve; frank; open; candid: used of persons or things: as, an ingenuous mind; an ingenuous confession.
  • Same as ingenious.
  • Synonyms Frank, Naïve, etc. (see candid); unreserved, artless, guileless, straightforward, truthful.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Of honorable extraction; freeborn; noble.
  • adjective Noble; generous; magnanimous; honorable; upright; high-minded.
  • adjective Free from reserve, disguise, equivocation, or dissimulation; open; frank
  • adjective obsolete Ingenious.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective Naive and trusting.
  • adjective Demonstrating childlike simplicity.
  • adjective Unsophisticated; simple.
  • adjective Unable to mask one's feelings.
  • adjective Straightforward, candid, open, and frank.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective characterized by an inability to mask your feelings; not devious
  • adjective lacking in sophistication or worldliness


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Latin ingenuus, honest, freeborn; see genə- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Latin ingenuus ("of noble character, frank")


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  • Criminals on trains often adopted what the researchers described as ingenuous tactics in their activities.

    ANC Daily News Briefing 2002

  • George Kembel, head of the Stanford d. school, calls the ingenuous device a $19,975 cost-savings.

    The Full Feed from 2009

  • It is Jan who is "regurgitating" the kind of ingenuous drivel that a million half-arsed career pundits are lining up to declare on CH4 news and Newsnight.

    On Thursday, the Legg report will be published along with... 2009

  • You needn't say 'ingenuous' isn't a real word, because it is.

    Priscilla's Spies George A. Birmingham 1907

  • If to the day of his death, after mortal disenchantments, the impression he first produced always evoked the word "ingenuous," those to whom his face was familiar can easily imagine what it must have been when it still had the light of youth.

    Embarrassments Henry James 1879

  • He might alter the word to "ingenuous" or "ingenious," either would be finely sarcastic, but then -- there was his foreman, who would detect it!

    Mr. Jack Hamlin's Mediation Bret Harte 1869

  • Nowhere have the sweet and amiable virtues, such as ingenuous condescension, indulgent humanity, and the respectable and severe virtues, such as disinterestedness and self-control which subject our movements to the requirements of the dignity of our nature, been better understood or interpreted.

    System der volkswirthschaft. English Wilhelm Roscher 1855

  • {4} His features displayed a good deal of serene pride, self-respect, fortitude, a kind of ingenuous sensuality, and something of instinctive wisdom, without any sharpness of intellect.

    Eothen, or, Traces of Travel Brought Home from the East Alexander William Kinglake 1850

  • I'm right ; ) And the satire not sarcasm) was meant to be ingenuous, which is why I clearly labeled it that.

    Question 3: Virtual Property 2006

  • Society in the 18th Century_, p. 207.)] [Footnote 304: _Lockhart_, Vol. III, p. 197.] [Footnote 305: The reader will at once recall the ingenuous remark of

    Sir Walter Scott as a Critic of Literature Margaret Ball


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  • I tend to not notice the first "u" and understand ingenious.

    August 8, 2008

  • This word is based on "genuine," but is convoluted, as are the other words based on "genuine," such as "disingenuous." I feel that "ingenious" means optionally honest. An ingenious person is honest only if he derive some personal benefit from being genuine, such as to gain the confidence of others, and then lies under slightly different circumstances to the same purpose, to reap the benefits of having gained that confidence.

    May 10, 2009

  • John66bessa, you are confusing two different words. Ingenious means "clever, showing great intelligence or insight." It easy to confuse this with ingenuous because of the noun ingenuity, which does not mean the quality of being ingenuous (that's ingenuousness), but the quality of being clever and inventive (and thus is closer in its meaning to "ingenious").

    Ingenuous has nothing to do with ingenuity, though as you suggest, it is related to the idea of being "genuine". Ingenuous people are by nature genuine, in that they do not know how to deceive or be other than they are. "Ingenuous" is a close synonym of "naive". Ingenuous people are honest, but not because they choose to be; it is simply their nature to be. They have not yet learned how to dissemble or lie. But worldly people, i.e. people who understand the way world works and who are not ingenuous, may also be genuine: they may be forthright and honest, but in this case, it is a conscious decision.

    We say that someone is disingenuous when they pretend to be ingenuous, i.e. they pretend to know less than they actually do, to be more naive than they actually are. They are deceptive, but in the particular way of pretending to be innocent or ignorant of something.

    Curiously, the words genius, ingenious, ingenuity, ingenuous, and genuine are all related in that they share the same Latin root -gen- ("relating to birth"), but they are not derived from or based on one another.

    May 10, 2009

  • Just to further muddy the waters, “ingenuous” is (according to, e.g., the American Heritage Dictionary,) also an obsolete form of “ingenious” (technically making the former a contranym). I love English.

    January 1, 2011

  • to be naïve and innocent

    Two-years in Manhattan had changed Jenna from an ingenuous girl from the suburbs to a jaded urbanite, unlikely to fall for any ruse, regardless of how elaborate.

    October 11, 2016