in·​ge·​nious in-ˈjēn-yəs How to pronounce ingenious (audio)
: having or showing an unusual aptitude for discovering, inventing, or contriving
an ingenious detective
: marked by originality, resourcefulness, and cleverness in conception or execution
an ingenious contraption
obsolete : showing or calling for intelligence, aptitude, or discernment
ingeniously adverb
ingeniousness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for ingenious

clever, adroit, cunning, ingenious mean having or showing practical wit or skill in contriving.

clever stresses physical or mental quickness, deftness, or great aptitude.

a person clever with horses

adroit often implies a skillful use of expedients to achieve one's purpose in spite of difficulties.

an adroit negotiator

cunning implies great skill in constructing or creating.

a filmmaker cunning in his use of special effects

ingenious suggests the power of inventing or discovering a new way of accomplishing something.

an ingenious software engineer

Examples of ingenious in a Sentence

How many dog-size bathrobes (an ingenious device) are out there? David Colman, Vogue, April 2001
… spacecraft engineers tried to come up with ways to "unstick" the antenna. Those attempts failed, but by ingenious software and mission-sequencing techniques … the Galileo mission was still able to fulfill nearly all of its scientific requirements and return a rich quantity of scientific data … Louis Friedman et al., Encyclopedia of the Solar System, 1999
… an ingenious method of checking errors … W. David Gardner, Datamation, June 1982
The book has an ingenious plot. She was ingenious at finding ways to work more quickly. It was ingenious of him to arrange the schedule so precisely. See More
Recent Examples on the Web And the Canadian/American soprano Lauren Pearl made a strong, charismatic showing as the asylum’s head nurse, now and then emerging in the hallway cradling a crackling gramophone — one of the more ingenious experiments of sound design in the score. Michael Andor Brodeur, Washington Post, 22 Sep. 2023 Chief among these is the famous P versus NP problem, which asks whether all problems with easily checkable solutions are also easy to solve with the right ingenious algorithm. Quanta Magazine, 5 Sep. 2023 The trick to banishing this stubborn food mess quickly and easily lies in one simple yet ingenious solution that's likely within arm's reach. Maryal Miller Carter, USA TODAY, 27 Aug. 2023 Lowe’s work is striking for its exterior purity — clean lines and ingenious embellishments — and its internally complex construction. Rachel Tashjian, Washington Post, 9 Sep. 2023 To quash this myth, Anscombe devised an ingenious demonstration known as Anscombe’s quartet. Jack Murtagh, Scientific American, 7 Sep. 2023 Unfortunately, countless ingenious concepts remain unrealized due to the complexities and the unknowns of business development. Jon Stojan, USA TODAY, 6 Sep. 2023 Modern hunting packs also incorporate ingenious, sport-specific storage for essential equipment such as bows, rifles, optics, sleeping gear, meat, and more. Justin Park, Popular Mechanics, 31 Aug. 2023 From smart gadgets to ingenious storage, these picks will make their university life smoother, smarter, and a lot more fun. Laura Lajiness Kaupke, Woman's Day, 31 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'ingenious.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English ingenyous, from Middle French ingenieus, from Latin ingeniosus, from ingenium natural capacity — more at engine entry 1

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

Time Traveler
The first known use of ingenious was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near ingenious

Cite this Entry

“Ingenious.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Oct. 2023.

Kids Definition


in·​ge·​nious in-ˈjēn-yəs How to pronounce ingenious (audio)
: having or showing ingenuity : very clever
an ingenious plan
ingeniously adverb
ingeniousness noun

from early French ingenieus "calling for or showing special intelligence or cleverness," from Latin ingeniosus (same meaning), from ingenium "natural ability or desire to do something, inborn ability," from in "in" and -genium, from gignere "to father, beget" — related to engine, genius, gin entry 1

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