Definition of ingenuous in US English:



  • (of a person or action) innocent and unsuspecting.

    ‘he eyed her with wide, ingenuous eyes’
    ‘she's staggeringly ingenuous, or possibly very cunning indeed’
    • ‘It had a sly, ingenuous surface, the charming and amusing thoughts of a group of seven-year-olds ruminating on sex, money, school, race, love, mum and dad, the future and each other.’
    • ‘Donald was ingenuous and unworldly.’
    • ‘Ryder's familiarity with the camera contributes to his disarmingly ingenuous presence, by turns determined and naive.’
    • ‘She thanked me with ingenuous sweetness for coming home with her.’
    • ‘"Let's just keep it that way," Hallie replied, giving her an ingenuous.’
    • ‘Somewhat ingenuous and too trusting, nevertheless he made a lasting contribution to the land he came to love.’
    • ‘This ingenuous charm contrasts with Mason's greater worldliness, greater opacity.’
    • ‘The original novel caught the ingenuous babble of its protagonist, naively recording the happy circumstances of her household as her master closed in on her.’
    • ‘Sometimes the reviewer knows nothing of the author or the reputation in which a book comes wrapped, the result being a rare, ingenuous honesty.’
    • ‘Such ingenuous theatricality marked much of that failed President's public speech, just as it marks his son's - a self-reflexiveness that many journalists noted at the time.’
    • ‘It may these days sound ingenuous, but in my memory the company gave a great deal more genuine consideration to its employees than one can find in the mealy-mouthed mantras of ‘human resources’.’
    • ‘They were charming youths, ingenuous and intelligent at the same time.’
    • ‘At the risk of being thought even more ingenuous or, indeed, of exposing myself to ridicule, let me present another idea.’
    • ‘Policy-planning, decision-making and implementation of strategy should be transparent and ingenuous.’
    • ‘Speaking personally however may I suggest that for European consumption you would be wise to omit details of your national service, which you describe with such evident and ingenuous pride?’
    • ‘I assure you, I'm neither ingenuous or disingenuous here.’
    • ‘It seemed to my ingenuous eyes that this fellow was literally handing out cash to patrons as they entered the theater, and it occurred to me that this might be some kind of rebate.’
    • ‘You have guests staying: nice, kind, ingenuous and well-meaning people, who are also rather boring.’
    • ‘But underneath it, in the emotional and psychological content, the plot is very ingenuous, almost adolescent.’
    • ‘He praises natural gracefulness in contrast to formal restraint: "an ingenuous freedom is better than constraint".’
    naive, innocent, simple, childlike, trusting, trustful, over-trusting, unwary, unsuspicious, unguarded, unsceptical, uncritical, unworldly, wide-eyed, inexperienced, green
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On the difference between ingenuous and ingenious, see ingenious


Late 16th century: from Latin ingenuus literally ‘native, inborn’, from in- ‘into’ + an element related to gignere ‘beget’. The original sense was ‘noble, generous’, giving rise to ‘honourably straightforward, frank’, hence ‘innocently frank’ (late 17th century).