in·​ge·​nue | \ ˈan-jə-ˌnü How to pronounce ingenue (audio) , ˈän-; ˈaⁿ-zhə-, ˈäⁿ- \
variants: or ingénue

Definition of ingenue

1 : a naive girl or young woman
2 : the stage role of an ingenue also : an actress playing such a role

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Although Becky Sharp, the ambitious heroine of William Makepeace Thackeray's 1848 novel Vanity Fair, is not usually thought of as innocent or naïve, the first recorded use of "ingenue" in English does refer to her. Thackeray's use was attributive: "When attacked sometimes, Becky had a knack of adopting a demure ingenue air, under which she was most dangerous." The word ingenue typically refers to someone who is innocent to the ways of the world, so you probably won't be too surprised to learn that it shares an ancestor, Latin ingenuus, with "ingenuous," a word meaning "showing innocent or childlike simplicity and candidness." More directly, our "ingenue" comes from French ingénue, the feminine form of ingénu, meaning "ingenuous."

Examples of ingenue in a Sentence

In her latest film she plays the part of an ingenue.
Recent Examples on the Web Meanwhile, another ingenue arrives at the modeling agency, to be become embroiled in darker world. John Hopewell, Variety, 14 Oct. 2021 Over the next several years, the blue-eyed, blond and petite Ms. Powell was the coloratura ingenue of frothy romances and Technicolor musicals. Washington Post, 16 Sep. 2021 Playing the young wife-to-be, Winslet straddles the line between ingenue and brat with an almost impossible blend of English rose and untamed shrew. Manuel Betancourt, Vulture, 27 May 2021 June is cradling 4-month-old Jay with 17-month-old Nina at her heels when a Hollywood ingenue knocks on the door of the Rivas’ Malibu home and hands over a newborn. Washington Post, 31 May 2021 At last January's Sundance festival in Park City, Utah, Yuh-Jung Youn got to be something else: an American ingenue. Leah Greenblatt,, 7 Apr. 2021 And, most recently, as publishing ingenue Kelsey Peters on Younger since 2015, Duff has made a strong case for taking the subway in stilettos. Katherine Singh,, 22 Feb. 2021 This, despite the fact that there are few things that Oscar voters seem to love more than a breakthrough ingenue in Best Actress. Joe Reid, Vulture, 22 Feb. 2021 The story is literally about an ingenue rising to global fame. Darren Franich,, 21 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ingenue.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ingenue

1839, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for ingenue

French ingénue, feminine of ingénu ingenuous, from Latin ingenuus

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The first known use of ingenue was in 1839

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Last Updated

21 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ingenue.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Oct. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of ingenue

: an innocent girl or young woman

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