Word Choice: Ingenious vs. Ingenuous
  • 2-minute read
  • 19th February 2023

Word Choice: Ingenious vs. Ingenuous

The English language is full of words that look the same but have different meanings and pronunciations. We call these words homographs.

Sometimes, though, words just look similar and get confused as a result. One such pair is ingenious and ingenuous. In this post, you’ll learn the differences between these two adjectives so you can be sure to use them correctly when describing a person or a thing.

Ingenious (Original, Clever, and Inventive)

We use ingenious, pronounced “in-jeen-yuhs,” to describe a person, thing, or idea. An ingenious person has an unusual aptitude for discovering, inventing, or contriving:

An ingenious researcher has discovered a new treatment for lung cancer.

We also use ingenious to describe the clever ideas, contraptions, or concepts that people come up with:

This book has an ingenious plot.

More synonyms for ingenious are inventive and creative, and an antonym of this would be unimaginative.

Ingenuous (Childlike, Innocent, and Naive)

We use ingenuous, pronounced “in-jen-yuh-wuhs,” most commonly to describe someone or something with childlike simplicity:

The ingenuous child insists on leaving cookies for Santa.

Being ingenuous is not a negative quality, but maybe you need more real-world experience before becoming a lawyer.

Additional synonyms for ingenuous include honest, simple, and sincere. And the opposite of ingenuous is disingenuous.

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Fun fact: During the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, people used ingenious and ingenuous as synonyms. But when Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary was published in 1755, it made a distinction between the two words, and people no longer used them as synonyms.

Word Choice: Ingenious or Ingenuous?

Ingenious and ingenuous look very similar, but we pronounce them differently, and they have different meanings:

●  Ingenious is used to describe a person, thing, or idea that is clever, original, or inventive.

●  Ingenuous is used to describe someone who is childlike, naive, or innocent.

Be careful when typing these adjectives because “i” and “u” are neighbors on the QWERTY keyboard, and this is the only spelling difference between these words. If you need an expert to help catch your spelling or grammar mistakes, we’re here to help. Check out our free trial today!

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