ingenious, ingenuous
These two words are distantly related and both have undergone a major shift in meaning. Ingenious came into English via French from a Latin source derived from ingenium ‘cleverness’; it originally meant ‘intellectual, talented’, but the meaning gradually weakened and its current sense is less complimentary and even depreciatory, ‘(of a person) clever, showing aptitude for devising curious devices’ and ‘(of a device or idea) cleverly contrived’:

• There were the ingenious hand-made toys, the shadow-puppets manipulated on sticks —H. Trevelyan, 1971

• I see…that some ingenious person…has videotaped my television series —Brian Aldiss, 1980

• The score ingeniously employs reeds, brass, percussion and lower strings, instruments that can be associated with power and oppressive darkness —MV Daily, AmE 2003 [OEC].

Ingenuous, by contrast, is derived from Latin ingenuus ‘freeborn’ and originally meant ‘befitting a free man, noble in character’, eventually weakening in sense to mean ‘open, frank, candid’:

• Getty arrived half an hour late with the ingenuous excuse that he had miscalculated how long it would take him to walk from the Ritz to Boodles Club in St James's Street —Art Newspaper, 1992

• She smiled ingenuously and the openness of her face seemed to ease his bad temper a little —S. Wood, 1993

• Akimov speaks with ingenuous enthusiasm about his commitment to unifying the company —Guardian, 2001.

The noun ingenuity was originally a derivative of ingenuous but was usurped by ingenious in the 16c, so that in current use ingenuity corresponds to ingenious, and ingenuousness corresponds to ingenuous. See also disingenuous.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ingenuous — In*gen u*ous, a. [L. ingenuus inborn, innate, freeborn, noble, frank; pref. in in + the root of gignere to beget. See {Genius}, and cf. {Ingenious}.] 1. Of honorable extraction; freeborn; noble; as, ingenuous blood of birth. [1913 Webster] 2.… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • ingenuous — I adjective aboveboard, apertus, artless, blunt, candid, childlike, devoid of dissimulation, downright, forthright, frank, free from reserve, genuine, guileless, honest, honorable, inartificial, innocent, liber, naive, natural, open, outspoken,… …   Law dictionary

  • ingenuous — 1590s, noble in nature, from L. ingenuus with the virtues of freeborn people, of noble character, frank, upright, candid, originally native, freeborn, from in in (see IN (Cf. in ) (2)) + gen , root of gignere beget, produce (see GENUS (Cf.… …   Etymology dictionary

  • ingenuous — *natural, simple, naive, unsophisticated, artless Analogous words: open, *frank, candid, plain: transparent, *clear: *childlike, childish: *straightforward, aboveboard: *sin …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • ingenuous — [adj] honest, trustful artless, candid, childlike, frank, green*, guileless, innocent, like a babe in the woods*, naive, natural, open, outspoken, plain, simple, sincere, square, straightforward, trusting, unaffected, unartful, unartificial,… …   New thesaurus

  • ingenuous — ► ADJECTIVE ▪ innocent and unsuspecting. DERIVATIVES ingenuously adverb ingenuousness noun. ORIGIN originally in the sense «noble, generous»: from Latin ingenuus native, inborn …   English terms dictionary

  • ingenuous — [in jen′yo͞o əs] adj. [L ingenuus, native, inborn, freeborn, noble, frank < ingignere, to engender < in , in + gignere, to produce: see GENUS] 1. Obs. of noble birth or nature 2. frank; open; candid 3. simple; artless; naive; without guile… …   English World dictionary

  • ingenuous — [[t]ɪnʤe̱njuəs[/t]] ADJ GRADED If you describe someone as ingenuous, you mean that they are innocent, trusting, and honest. [FORMAL] He seemed too ingenuous for a reporter... With ingenuous sincerity, he captivated his audience. Ant: disingenuous …   English dictionary

  • ingenuous — I. adjective Etymology: by alteration Date: 1588 obsolete ingenious II. adjective Etymology: Latin ingenuus native, freeborn, from in + gignere to beget more at kin Date: 1588 1 …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • ingenuous — See ingenious, ingenuous, naïve …   Dictionary of problem words and expressions

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